San Diego Gas & Electric is ramping up efforts to protect East County residents from wildfires as the height of fire season approaches.
The utility company in conjunction with El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and Cal Fire San Diego Chief Tony Mecham showed off a new water-dropping aircrane that will be stationed at Gillespie Field through 2018.
The massive helicopter, called SkyMaverick, holds about 2,650 gallons of water -- five times more water than a fire engine tank -- and can be filled in less than one minute, SDG&E said.
The added resource is critical during the height of fire season, SDG&E Communications Manager Allison Torres said. It is just one of the utility company's latest safety measures to protect residents and firefighters from wildfires.
SDG&E is also using new electrical equipment to reduce outage impacts to customers during fires.
Weather stations have been placed around the county that can monitor at a hyper-local level what residents will be affected by wildfires. The results could mean 73 percent fewer people affected when power has to be shut off due to a wildfire, Torres said.
New community resources centers, called CERTS, will also be established in the county's most fire-prone areas. The nine air-conditioned, wifi-established locations aim to help customers during power shutoffs.
"If conditions continue to threaten the integrity of our system and we need to de-energize we want customers to know they have a place to go," Torres said.
The ideas for these safety improvements came from several town halls with the community. Learn more about SDG&E's fire safety efforts and what residents can do to protect themselves here.