Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has begun daily aerial fire patrols across hundreds of miles of its service area, including Glenn County, to assist state and local fire agencies with early fire detection and response this summer.
The patrols, which will continue through October, will take place over many fire-prone areas in PG&E’s service area including the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern and Central California, in Mendocino County and along the Redwood and Central Coasts.
In 2015, the second year of the patrols, PG&E planes spotted 146 fires.
In 25 instances, PG&E was the first to report fires to CalFire or the U.S. Forest Service allowing those agencies to respond quickly and accurately and extinguish fires before they spread, reported PG&E Spokesman Paul Moreno.
PG&E funds the daily fire patrols as part of its comprehensive drought emergency response plan. Using fixed-wing aircraft, fire spotters will operate along five routes, including Redding to Auburn in the Northern Sierra, and Mendocino County.
In addition, added this year is air patrol covering Shasta, Humboldt, Tehama, Glenn, Colusa and Lake counties, west of the Sacramento River.
Patrols will fly seven days a week from mid-afternoon until dusk the time of day when wildfires are most likely to ignite with hot, dry weather at its peak.
On days when potential for wildfires is heightened and red-flag warnings are issued, PG&E will conduct special vegetation-management ground patrols and add aerial patrols in the designated red-flag geographies.
The patrols are coordinated through PG&E’s aerial operations. Spotters report any smoke or fire they see to PG&E, CalFire and the U.S. Forest Service, if it is on federal land.
“PG&E is committed to continue this very successful aerial fire-patrol program as we partner with federal, state and local agencies to mitigate the increased threat of wildfire as we’re seeing record tree mortality caused by one of the most severe droughts in state history. We encourage all of our customers to be prepared and have a plan in case of emergencies,” said Barry Anderson, vice president of electric distribution for PG&E. “The long-term impacts of the drought, combined with significant bark-beetle damage, continue to be a major concern as we once again enter the peak of California’s wildfire season.”
CalFire has a robust aerial firefighting program supporting ground forces in an effort to keep 95 percent of fires at 10 acres or less.
“Reporting wildfires is everybody’s responsibility and no one should assume somebody else has. We appreciate the survey work PG&E does from the air, looking for potential fire starts, especially in those areas most impacted by the unprecedented tree mortality,” said Chief Dave Teter, CalFire deputy director of fire protection.
In addition to its daily aerial fire patrols, PG&E is conducting enhanced ground patrols on specific electrical circuits to inspect and remove dead or dying trees that could fall into lines and spark a fire.
PG&E is also supporting CalFire’s “Prepare for Bark Beetle” public awareness campaign. This month, PG&E will carry the “Prepare for Bark Beetle” message to four million customers on their paper billing envelopes. Another 1.7 million customers who receive e-bills will receive it as a bill insert.
The bark beetle has killed millions of trees across the state adding to the extreme fire danger as they allow wildfires to spread rapidly.
Anyone with dead or dying trees on their property needs to remove entire tree, PG&E said.
Contact PG&E before removing dead trees near power lines.
Learn more about bark beetle and how to remove dead trees through CalFire’s public education effort Ready for Wildfire.