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SDG&E announces new safety measures as fire season’s crisis point arrives

As what has historically been the most dangerous month of the year when it comes to fires has begun, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) last week unveiled additional enhancements to improve public safety and help ensure customers and communities in the utility’s service territory are better prepared for  wildfire emergencies. 

Extreme weather and fire safety improvements include:

• Erickson Aircrane available 365 days a year. Traditionally here for four months (August through November), SDG&E has contracted for the Aircrane to remain stationed at Gillespie Field all year for dispatch by CAL FIRE when needed. The Aircrane, the largest water-dropping helitanker in the country, already has responded to more wildfires this year than all of 2017. Holding 2,650 gallons of water or fire suppressant, this massive air machine can drop the equivalent of what five fire engines carry.  Up-to-the minute information on the Aircrane’s every move is available on Twitter @SkyMaverickSDGE.  

• New electric equipment that will minimize customer outages.  When SDG&E needs to turn off power for safety in high-fire-threat areas, fewer customers will now be impacted by what is known as the Public Safety Power Shutoff program. With a focus on reducing impacts to customers, SDG&E engineers have identified methods to sectionalize electric circuits by employing technology that could reduce the number of customers impacted during a shutoff.  

• Nine Community Resource Centers unveiled. Responding to requests from the public, nine stationary Community Resource Centers have been established and will serve as a location where SDG&E customers can go when circuits are shutoff in their area for extended Public Safety Power Shutoff events. Community Resource Centers will be open during extended Power Shutoffs lasting more than 24 hours. Hours will vary based on each shutoff event. These centers will provide up-to-date information, and basic needs like water, snacks and a place to charge cell phones. SDG&E has partnered with our local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) to host the centers. 

• Dedicated wildfire safety web page launched. Around-the-clock weather information, live views of fire-threat areas and additional safety information are available at sdge.com/wildfire-safety.

“We are working hard to mitigate the risks associated with this ‘new normal’ of a year-round wildfire season and trying to protect the people and communities we serve,” said Caroline Winn, SDG&E’s chief operating officer. “Together, we can continue to enhance public safety and make our region more resilient. The new, enhanced preparedness efforts will complement SDG&E’s decade-long comprehensive fire risk mitigation program designed to prevent the ignition of wildfires.” 

“The SDG&E Aircrane has been and will continue to be a game changer for Cal Fire and the San Diego County Fire Authority,” said San Diego County Fire Chief Tony Mecham. “To have this critical tool available to us during the early stages of a fire has already had a very real impact on fires this year.” 

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