Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) extended its daily aerial smoke detection patrols in portions of its service area an additional two weeks. PG&E launched the patrols in June to assist the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE and local fire agencies with early fire detection and response during the highest-fire risk months. Early detection of smoke or fire allows fire agencies to quickly respond to accurate locations.
PG&E will continue operating fixed-wing aircraft to spot smoke along two routes, from Auburn to Auberry in the Central Sierra, and Vacaville to Solvang through Nov. 15. PG&E extended flights in these areas that have not received significant rain and remain dry.
“PG&E is focused on public safety and reducing the wildfire risk in California. In addition to the work we do every day on the ground to ensure our infrastructure is operating safely, our aerial patrols will continue to help fire agencies identify and respond to potential fires where dry conditions still exist,” said Pat Hogan, senior vice president of electric operations at PG&E.
All flights were previously scheduled to conclude on Oct. 31. The company uses fixed-wing aircraft to fly four routes and contributed funding to the Mendocino County Aerial Patrol Co-Operative for a fifth route over Mendocino County.
This is the fourth year of the program. From mid-June when the flights began through October 31, the patrols spotted a total of 218 fires and, in 21 instances, were the first to report the fire to CAL FIRE or the U.S. Forest Service. In 2017, nearly 3,350 hours of flight time have been recorded through October. The patrols flew during the last five hours of daylight, roughly 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. Last year, fire spotters identified a total of 142 fires.