Today, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) announced it has renewed agreements to make a heavy-lift helicopter available to support fire-fighting efforts again this fall. The Erickson Skycrane helitanker has the capacity to carry and drop more than 2,500 gallons of water and can be in the air within 20 minutes to assist with fire suppression. The Skycrane arrived in San Diego August 1 and will remain on stand-by through November, with an option to stay longer if fire conditions warrant.
“The Skycrane is one of the most effective and extraordinary fire-fighting resources available in the nation,” said Caroline Winn, chief energy delivery officer for SDG&E. “We’re pleased to bring it back a sixth straight year for use by fire agencies wherever the need is greatest.”
“With the ongoing drought, and the rash of wildfires burning in California right now, having the helitanker available provides an extra measure of ‘fire insurance’ for the entire region,” said CAL FIRE Chief Tony Mecham.
SDG&E renewed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the County and City of San Diego that spells out the protocol for how the aircraft will be used during fire emergencies. The county has set aside $150,000 and SDG&E has contributed a matching amount that will cover the cost of the Skycrane’s initial flight hours.
San Diego Fire-Rescue again will be the lead agency to coordinate the dispatch of the Skycrane upon request.
“We are very pleased to see the return of the helitanker, which adds a significant tool to our fire-fighting arsenal,” said San Diego Fire Chief Javier Mainar. “With its quick response and water capacity, fire crews can attack decisively before a blaze has a chance to spread.”
In recent years, the city and county have built a home-based emergency response fleet of four helicopters – two for the city and two for the county. San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Horn was instrumental in helping to add a fifth helicopter for the region, which should be available this fall.
“The county is committed to fire safety and has spent about $317 million on fire expenses in the period from 2013 through 2014,” said Chairman Bill Horn. “We are more prepared now than we have ever been.”
Even with the additional county air power, Supervisor Ron Roberts points out the Skycrane and its extraordinary capacity to carry up to six times the 375 gallons of those in the local fleet are a welcome addition.
“Having the helitanker for another ‘fire season’ illustrates not only the dramatic increase in county dollars INVESTED in fire preparedness and response, but also the importance of new technology we’ve pioneered and the success of partnerships forged over the past decade,” Roberts said. “I’m pleased that this ‘temporary’ arrangement with SDG&E we entered into six years later has now become a fire-season fixture.”
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 868,000 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.
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