PG&E Aerial Smoke Patrols Spot Dozens Of California Wildfires In 2016

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) played a significant role in helping spot and report wildfires before they could become larger thanks to daily flights conducted over much of the energy company's service area in the past four months.

From late June through late October, PG&E completed daily air patrols to spot fires in five regions in Northern and Central California. During the time period when PG&E operated the flights as part of its drought emergency response, the patrols spotted 142 fires and, in seven instances, were the first to report the fire to CAL FIRE or the U.S. Forest Service. This is the third year of the program; 146 fires were spotted in 2015.

Early detection of smoke or fire allows fire agencies to quickly respond to accurate locations and put out fires before they spread.

In all, more than 2,800 hours of flight time were recorded. PG&E used four fixed-wing aircraft to fly from Redding to Auburn in the north, from Auburn to Auberry in the Central Valley, from Vacaville to Solvang along the Central Coast, from Redding to Humboldt to Lake County, and funded the Mendocino County Aerial Fire Patrol Co-Operative over Mendocino County on the North Coast. The patrols flew from 3 p.m. until dusk - the time of day when wildfires are most likely to ignite because hot, dry weather is at its peak.

"Thanks to these daily air patrols, PG&E has been able to help fire-fighting agencies locate fires in remote areas and to put them out quickly. This is just one of the ways that we are supporting our customers and our communities during this unprecedented drought," said Pat Hogan, PG&E senior vice president of Electric Transmission & Distribution.

"The early detection and reporting of wildfires gives us the ability to dispatch resources quickly, and provides us the best opportunity to save lives, property and natural resources," said Chief Dave Teter, CAL FIRE's Deputy Director of Fire Protection. "We appreciate the efforts of PG&E's daily air patrols over these past few months."

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