Supervisor Jim Desmond with the new UH-60 Blackhawk firefighting helicopter
Supervisor Jim Desmond with the new UH-60 Blackhawk firefighter helicopter. Courtesy SDG&E

San Diego Gas & Electric representatives and a group of local government officials announced new wildfire safety initiatives Wednesday in advance of the county’s peak wildfire season.

Cal Fire Chief Tony Mecham, county Supervisor Jim Desmond and Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians Chairman John Christman joined a group of SDG&E officials to discuss countywide fire preparedness, which includes SDG&E’s partnership with the county to utilize a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to fight fires.

The helicopter will be in use year-round and holds 850 gallons of water for fire suppression. It joins the Erickson Aircrane, which holds more than 2,600 gallons of water and is the largest water-dropping helitanker in the country, as the second aerial asset that SDG&E has made available to the region for year-round firefighting purposes. Cal Fire dispatches the helicopters when needed, according to the utility.

Other newly added tools include a tactical command vehicle that features internet and phone service; evacuation map books that contain the locations of law enforcement dispatch facilities; and two new information centers in Ramona and Valley Center, both of which have the capacity to charge electronics in an emergency.

SDG&E also oversees nine resource centers that provide emergency information, water, snacks and electronic charging stations.

“The new wildfire prevention assets will complement SDG&E’s decade- long fire risk preparedness program, which is aimed at identifying and better managing the effects of extreme weather and making our region more resilient,” said SDG&E COO Caroline Winn. “We are committed to continuing our work with the best and the brightest in our region so that together, we can make every day safer than the last for the communities we are privileged to serve.”

SDG&E plans to hold wildfire safety fairs this month and next month in Valley Center, Ramona and Alpine. Attendees will receive information about emergency preparedness, potential power shutoffs to preemptively avoid starting fires and what SDG&E is doing to increase public safety in areas of the county at risk for wildfires.

Some attendees will also receive an emergency kit backpack, according to SDG&E. Dates and locations for upcoming safety fairs can be found at

City News Service