SONOMA COUNTY (CBS13) – As the drought drags on, the chances for destructive wildfires increase by the day. Crews are taking to the air looking for to help keep the fire danger to a minimum.
They’re looking for trouble. A special team hired by PG&E is flying low and slow over power lines in the most remote parts of Sonoma County looking for one thing: “Anything dead that is maybe 100 feet of the power lines,” says one crew member.
The drought is taking a tall toll on the forest, and dead trees falling into power lines are perfect fuel for forest fires.
“The drought is having an impact on trees. We want to make sure that we are addressing any concerns before they become a problem,” said PG&E spokesperson Brittany McKannay.
From the air it becomes clear there are several trees that are a danger. The GPS location is recorded, and in a few days, a ground crew will trim or remove the tree. So far they’ve located nearly 80 trees of serious concern. The extra dry conditions have more than just PG&E worried.
“We are on tap for an unprecedented fire season now.” Chris Jurasek, a Cal Fire aviation battalion chief.
The Cal Fire tanker base at the Sonoma County Airport is on high alert, fully staffed a month early.
“The limited time we have flown around the last month or so, things are very dry and there’s a lot of bug kill — both from the drought and bark beetles,” said Jurasek.
The attack tankers are fully loaded and fueled. They have new paint, new engines, and are ready for the inevitable call.
PG&E has nearly a dozen crews flying across the state looking for drought-stricken trees. The company’s goal is to have the entire system inspected within the month, before the true heat of the summer sets in.