PG&E Pilots Are Eyes In Sky For Spotting Fires

AUBURN (CBS13) – With fire season upon us, more eyes are in the sky, thanks to PG&E.

“It has been a critical priority to PG&E to get out there and do whatever we can not only protect our customers but to protect our infrastructure and our employees,” said Brandi Merlo, spokeswoman for PG&E.

In doing that, every four days Arron Cambridge heads to the Auburn Airport.

“We fly five hours every day,” he said.

He’s one of nearly a dozen PG&E pilots who fly around Northern California to Bakersfield looking for wildfires seven days a week.

“We’re looking for signs of smoke and flame to make sure that we can get the appropriate response out,” he said.

Since mid-June, they’ve spotted 28 fires.

“For every four days that I fly, I’ll find one or two,” he added.

It’s the fourth year of summer flying initiated by the governor’s drought state of emergency.

“It’s very important that we identify and suppress those fires as quickly as possible,” said Neil Fischer, the supervisor of vegetation and tree mortality with PG&E.

While we’ve had plenty of rain this year, he says it only adds to the fuel in addition to the dead trees.

“Estimating more than 100 million are dead in the Sierra and Southern Sierra. Those trees as they die they dry up and become standing dead fuel,” he said.

Experts believe the daily routine in the sky has helped significantly on the ground.

“When I spot a fire and send that information back to the people were watching us, they can call and get Calfire out there right away to help us out,” Cambridge said.

It’s a flight he takes at only at 2,500 feet and through rugged terrain.

“There’s a certain kind of risk when you’re doing this job,” he said.

But with a critical need to keep Californians safe from fire, he’s up for the flight.

More from Jennifer McGraw
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