SAN DIEGO, Sept. 2, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of San Diego Gas & Electric's (SDG&E) efforts to serve as a regional partner in public safety, the utility has contracted the Erikson Air-Crane helitanker for the fifth consecutive high-risk fire season. Additionally, SDG&E has established a contract with Helistream Aviation for a Type II helicopter through November.
"The spring wildfire storm was a stark reminder of the importance of regional wildfire response," said John Sowers, vice president of electric distribution operations for SDG&E. "As SDG&E took into account the damage and loss from the May firestorm, we were compelled to not only bring in again the Air-Crane for high-risk fire season but to also contract for another firefighting tool, the Type II helicopter. It is our hope that these two aerial assets will help firefighting agencies quickly suppress wildfires, limiting damage to the region and our gas and electric system."
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between SDG&E and the County of San Diego establishes a $300,000 operating budget for fire season, with SDG&E covering the cost to operate the helicopters during the first two hours of flight of any new fire and the County of San Diego covering the second two hours of flight from the County's Aerial Fire Protection Fund.
"Collaboration between public and private entities over the past several years has been vital to ensuring that our region is well prepared for the next emergency," said San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts. "SDG&E has long been a partner in enhancing the county's firefighting capability and I am pleased that they not only contracted the Air-Crane but also brought in a second helicopter."
A second MOU between SDG&E and the City of San Diego establishes that the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department will be the lead agency that would dispatch the Air-Crane and Type II helicopter to any wildfire upon request. The Air-Crane and Type II helicopter will be on standby for use by fire agencies throughout high-risk fire season and ready to take flight once dispatched.
"With California well into the third drought year it is critical that the region is steadfast in its commitment to fire preparedness and prevention," said Chief Javier Mainar of San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. "It is vital to have sufficient air support in the region so that we can quickly respond and suppress fires early in their development."
"As we saw just a few months ago, air support makes all the difference in our ability to quickly suppress wildfires," said Unit and County Fire Chief Tony Mecham. "SDG&E contracting not one -- but two fire suppression air assets will make a tremendous impact in ensuring our region is ready to quickly respond as we enter a critical time."
SDG&E is a regulated public utility that provides safe and reliable energy service to 3.4 million consumers through 1.4 million electric meters and 861,000 natural gas meters in San Diego and southern Orange counties. The utility's area spans 4,100 square miles. SDG&E is committed to creating ways to help customers save energy and money every day. SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego. Connect with SDG&E's Customer Contact Center at 800-411-7343, on Twitter (@SDGE) and Facebook.
SOURCE San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)