Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) has extended its daily aerial smoke detection patrols to detect wildfires sooner. The utility launched aerial patrols in June to assist the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE, and local fire agencies with early fire detection and response during the months when fire risk is highest.
PG&E will continue operating fixed-wing aircraft to spot smoke along two routes in areas that have not received significant rain and remain dry. 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.