SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As part of its enhanced response to this year’s wildfire season, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has completed daily air patrols to help detect fires in four regions in Northern and Central California and along the Central Coast. During the four months PG&E operated the flights as part of its drought emergency response, the patrols spotted 146 fires and in 25 instances were the first to report the fire to CAL FIRE or the United States Forest Service. Early detection of smoke or fire allowed fire agencies to quickly respond to accurate locations and put out fires before they spread.
The daily air patrols began on June 15 and were scheduled to conclude on October 15. However, due to continued warm temperatures, PG&E extended the flights through October 31. The utility used four fixed-wing aircraft to fly from Redding to Auburn in the north, Auburn to Auberry in the central valley, Monterey to Solvang along the central coast, and in Mendocino County on the north coast. The patrols flew from 2 p.m. until dusk – the time of day when wildfires are most likely to ignite because hot, dry weather is at its peak.
“We are working hard to help reduce the risk of wildfire during this prolonged drought. Through these daily air patrols, we’ve been able to help CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service identify fires in remote areas and to put them out quickly,” said Barry Anderson, PG&E vice president of emergency preparedness and response.
”The earlier we can get our firefighting resources to the scene of a wildfire, the better chance we have of saving lives, property and our state’s natural resources,” said Chief Dave Teter, CAL FIRE’s Deputy Director of Fire Protection. “PG&E’s daily air patrols over these past few months were appreciated, especially as we faced critical fire conditions fueled by the ongoing drought.”
CAL FIRE has responded to more than 6,000 wildfires this year, scorching more than 300,000 acres. El Niño may bring some relief this winter, but forecasters predict it won’t be enough to end the four-year drought. California fire season can last six to eight months, and some parts of the state are vulnerable year-round.
In addition to the daily air patrols, PG&E has taken a number of steps to prevent wildfires as part of its drought emergency response plan including:
- Conducting enhanced ground and air patrols to inspect, prune or remove dead or dying trees that could fall into power lines and spark a fire. This includes use of LiDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) and spectral imagery patrols.
- Funding $2 million to 19 local Fire Safe Councils for fuel reduction, emergency access and defensible space projects.
- Funding remote cameras in lookout towers for early fire detection.
PG&E is also supporting CAL FIRE's One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire and Prepare for Bark Beetle public awareness campaigns. According to CAL FIRE, more than 90 percent of all wildfires in California are sparked by people, and therefore preventable. In addition, bark beetles are killing millions of trees in California, greatly increasing the risk of wildfire. Homeowners can reduce risk by removing dead trees on their property and properly maintaining healthy trees by pruning and watering as necessary.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and www.pge.com/en/about/newsroom/index.page.