For over two weeks, Cosumnes Community Services District crews worked non-stop in response to a series of life-threatening winter storms that affected the west coast since New Year’s Eve. The special district which provides fire protection, emergency medical, parks, and recreation services in south Sacramento County performed dozens of rescues, removed downed trees, opened evacuation centers, and answered hundreds of other calls for service.
“As an all-risk, all-hazards fire department, we have prepared for these incidents for decades, but we have never seen anything quite like this,” said Fire Chief Felipe Rodriguez. “While the area of our District along the Cosumnes River is prone to flooding, this was the most life-threatening weather system this District has faced in over 20 years.”
The first major storm on New Year’s Eve caused significant damages and hazardous conditions within the District’s 157-square-mile jurisdiction in Sacramento County. The Fire Department responded to 271 calls for service on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, more than double the number of emergencies in a typical 48-hour period. That included dozens of search and rescue operations for stranded motorists along both Highway 99 and Dillard Road. Throughout that night, fire crews responded to calls of individuals trapped in rising water or even getting swept hundreds of yards away from the road.
The Fire Department saw another jump in incidents during the powerful storm on Jan. 8-9. Since then, their eight fire stations are back to normal call volumes and incident types.
The District maintains over 1,000 acres of open space, including 102 parks and 46,000 trees in the Elk Grove community. Between Jan. 1-18, the District received 183 reports from the public to its park maintenance hotline. Approximately 160 of those reports involved downed trees or other urban forestry issues. About 146 of them have since been resolved.
Sadly, 60 trees were lost after sustaining serious damage including 18 trees located within the century-old Elk Grove Park. Elk Grove Park has been closed since Jan. 1 to keep the public safe and to allow park operations crews to clear storm debris and assess trees.
“It was critical for us to move quickly to clear the widespread tree- and storm-related hazards in our parks, trails, and street corridors,” said Parks and Recreation Administrator Phil Lewis. “Our dedicated park operations crews and contractors were out in full force to clear fallen trees and limbs, inspect storm damage to infrastructure, close flooded areas, and assess tree health. With over 100 parks, we also appreciate the residents who act as our eyes and ears by reporting park-related issues to our hotline.”
Throughout the crisis, the District partnered with local, regional, and state public safety partners to combine unique resources and act fast to save life and property. “From evacuation centers to helicopter and swift water rescues to public safety dispatchers, it takes a broad and creative approach to serve and protect our community in these extraordinary emergencies. I believe we would have seen even more dire outcomes had it not been for the swift action of District personnel and our mutual aid partners,” said Chief Rodriguez.
Board President Gil Albiani said, “As we closed one year and opened another, this deluge of storms, floods and dangerous winds put our District personnel and community to the test. For nearly two weeks, we have seen the preparation, initiative, and heroism from our staff and public safety partners come together to save lives and property. Cosumnes CSD is dedicated to the protection of our Elk Grove and Galt communities as we continue to address the damages wrought by a multitude of emergencies throughout the area.”
The District’s emergency management response was activated on Dec. 30, 2022, and has operated continuously to ensure the safety of its community and personnel. On Jan. 9, the District issued a Proclamation of Local Emergency to position the District and its residents to potentially receive assistance from county, state and federal sources to offset costs incurred in the response and to support further clean-up and recovery efforts.