SDG&E's Aircrane Returns for Challenging Fire Season

This critical firefighting asset will work in coordination with local fire agencies to protect our community

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 8, 2017 – Today, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) announced the return of the Erickson Aircrane marking the eighth-year the company has contracted to bring this critical firefighting asset to San Diego County to protect our community from wildfire. The Aircrane is here and ready for what fire officials believe will be one of the most dangerous fire seasons we’ve experienced. 

“Bringing back the Aircrane for another fire season is just one of the many enhancements we, and our partners, have made over the years to improve wildfire readiness,” said Caroline Winn, chief operating officer for SDG&E. “Working collaboratively with the County, local jurisdictions and the state is key to ensuring our communities are as safe as possible.”

The Erickson Aircrane is an impressive machine, holding a maximum of 2,650 gallons of water or fire suppressant--the equivalent of five fire engines. It can be airborne within 15 minutes, and takes only 45 seconds to refill its tank. Over the last eight years it has made 464 water drops. That’s over half a million gallons of water dropped to protect our homes, businesses and communities.

“The extraordinarily wet winter we experienced this year is enhancing the recurring threat our regions faces from wildfires,” said Ron Roberts, County Board of Supervisors. “Fortunately, we have excellent working partnerships with public safety agencies and the private sector--especially with the professionals at SDG&E who we have worked closely on deploying fire preparedness technologies and who are once again our teammates in bringing an aircrane to town during peak fire season.”

The Aircrane is stationed at Gillespie Field in El Cajon and is contracted to remain in the region through November--or longer, if fire conditions warrant.

“The helitanker is a significant and welcomed addition to our regional fire-fighting arsenal every year,” said CAL FIRE Chief Tony Mecham. “The Aircrane’s quick response and decisive attack make a critical difference by stopping a wildfire before it has a chance to spread.  Having the helitanker close by and available, if needed, provides an extra measure of insurance for our community.”

With a focus on becoming the cleanest, safest, most reliable energy company in America, SDG&E has implemented many improvements to protect the power grid and enhance fire preparedness. Some examples include:

  • Built and deployed the largest utility-owned weather network that provides advance notice of extreme fire weather conditions. The system includes 173 weather stations in fire-prone areas providing real-time readings of wind speed, humidity, and temperature every 10 minutes. This information is also shared with fire agencies who use this data when responding to emergencies.
  • Replaced over 10,000 wooden power poles with fire-resistant steel poles-– with most located in high-risk, fire-prone areas.
  • Helped create the Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index which provides a ‘rating’ system for the potential of wildfires fueled by these strong seasonal winds.
  • Developed the Fire Potential Index that integrates weather forecasts and vegetation conditions in a tool to help us know when and where to pre-stage crews to respond to possible outages.
  • “This year, we’re anticipating higher fire activity fueled by a more abundant grass crop than we’ve seen in quite a while,” said San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy. “With the vital weather information and tools that SDG&E provides, our fire crews are able to plan and develop response strategies giving firefighters better situational awareness in the communities they are charged with protecting.”

For more information on how you can become better prepared or on SDG&E’s commitment to fire preparedness and safety, log onto

SDG&E is an innovative San Diego-based energy company that provides safe, reliable, clean energy to better the lives of the people it serves in San Diego and southern Orange counties. More than 4,200 employees work to provide the cleanest, safest and most reliable energy in the West. The company has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for leadership in addressing climate change, was the first to meet California’s goal of delivering 33 percent of energy from renewable sources, has fueled the adoption of electric vehicles and energy efficiency through unique customer programs, and supports a number of non-profit partners. SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), a Fortune 500 energy services holding company based in San Diego. For more information, visit or connect with SDG&E on Twitter (@SDGE), Instagram (@SDGE) and Facebook.