“If we couldn’t keep water flowing and keep it at levels it needed to be there was no fight,” Kurt Kowar, Director of Public Works for the City of Louisville, said.
He and his water treatment team went into action after learning their neighbors in Superior had lost power, a backup generator burned and their access to water was dwindling.
“Trees down on the road on fire, buildings on fire, grass, power lines down everywhere. We are driving in ditches cutting fences to drive through the open space. It was insane to get here and of course the wind was intense,” Greg Venette, Chief Water Plant Operator, said.
Venette, with his colleague Jeff Owens, went into the fire’s path to get water flowing again, a task that had to be done manually.
“When we got down there right on the corner one of the power poles was on fire. It was also swinging in the wind pretty hard, and maybe 15 feet from there was one of the valves we had to open,” he said.
Having lost communication to their own tanks, they then went to visually check on the water they had left. It meant Owens would have to climb a 20 five foot water tower in hurricane force winds.
“I had to belly crawl to the hatch so I could look through the hatch to visually check our water levels,” he said.
Roughly two feet of water was all that remained.
“We were getting very close to running out of water,” Owens said.
They needed to get water back in the tank as quickly as possible.
“We just kind of went into quick decision making of opening raw water valves,” Kowar said.
At the same time another team member, Cory Peterson the Deputy Director of Utilities, was working to get their power up and running again.
Escorting large tanks of natural gas through much of the burn area to the plant. Just across the street, homes were lost.
“Anytime you have explosive material and you’re next to fire it certainly gets your excitement level up,” Peterson said
With power up, they could start treating the water again, but levels didn’t rise nearly enough.
“My manager, Ben, came up with a solution. Each one of these properties, the issues they were having was water is just gushing out of these burned properties,” Shane Mayan said.
He and his manager and two others spent the rest of the night going home to home turning water off as they could and trying to ensure firefighters never lost pressure.
“That was our main goal was to try and help the firefighters,” Mahan said.
During President Joe Biden’s visit to Colorado, as he was delivering his speech to the community he mentioned Greg and the bravery of this team, but each one says they were simply doing their job.