SDG&E Aircrane ready to rock this fire season - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

SDG&E Aircrane ready to rock this fire season

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EL CAJON (NEWS 8) -  For the eighth season, San Diego Gas & Electric’s Aircrane is back in San Diego ready to join wildfire response efforts at any given moment.

Aircrane is a water-lugging helicopter that at full capacity can smother flames with 2,600 gallons of water in one dump. It also has the capability to refill its tank as it hovers over a lake or reservoir in just 45 seconds.

“Our agreement is that pretty much any fire that goes beyond the first report of smoke, we’re going to put this aircraft in the air and use it,” Cal Fire Chief Tony Mecham said.

SDG&E also announced the addition of two weather centers to its network of more than 100 centers across the county which predict weather patterns and help wildland fire forecasting.

“We’ve had a little bit of a lull during this monsoonal moisture and as soon as that monsoonal moisture [goes away] and it dries out, we’re going to get fires,” Mecham said. “Right now we’re forecasting slightly above average activity for the Santa Ana season and that’s really when we get our major fires is the wind-driven fires.”

Mecham said one Aircrane replaces five standard water-dropping helicopters. The bright orange chopper has already been deployed twice this summer: Once for the Jennings Fire that burned 400 acres off Interstate 8 east of Lake Jennings, and again for the Lost Fire that scorched 255 acres near Warner Springs.

“We always talk about fire service tools in the toolbox,” San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief Brian Fennessy said. “Well, this is a sledge hammer behind us. We go to the toolbox and pull this out, it does a lot of work.”

The Aircrane is scheduled to remain in San Diego through the end of October unless an ongoing fire requires its services past that time.

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