SDG&E’s Aircrane: Saving Communities, One Big Water Drop at a Time

The threat of wildfires has become a year-long reality in the San Diego region. But this fall, experts say it’s going to be an extremely challenging fire season. That’s why the county, city, CAL FIRE, SDG&E and others have been working together to plan and prepare.

At SDG&E, we are committed to keeping the communities in which we live and work safe. That includes making significant investments in state-of-the-art resources and equipment that will protect our region.

Making the difference is the Erickson Aircrane, which has already been dispatched to douse five fires this year, making nearly 40 water drops for a total of more than 50,000 gallons.

It’s the eighth-year we contracted to bring this critical firefighting asset to San Diego County to protect our communities from wildfire.

Jose Torres, who recently witnessed the Aircrane in action, said he believes the helicopter is a vital asset for the region. It brought peace of mind to his own community of Spring Valley last year on the afternoon of August 17 when flames threatened his neighborhood.

“Living in Spring Valley, I never thought I would be worried about wildfires in my backyard until I realized that some of my neighbors were being told to evacuate,” Torres said. “The moment I saw the Aircrane dropping thousands of gallons of water I knew things would be under control soon. With the Sweetwater reservoir close by, the Aircrane got the fire under control within two drops.”

The Erickson Aircrane is an impressive machine, holding a maximum of 2,650 gallons of water or fire suppressant – the equivalent of five fire engines. It can be airborne within 15 minutes, and takes only 45 seconds to refill its tank. Over the last eight years it has made 464 water drops. That’s over half a million gallons of water dropped to protect our homes, businesses and communities.

“I’m grateful that the fire department had access to this machine for the safety of  my family and my neighbors,” said Torres.

The Aircrane is stationed at Gillespie Field in El Cajon and is contracted to remain in the region through November – or longer, if fire conditions warrant.

For more information on how you can become better prepared or on SDG&E’s commitment to fire preparedness and safety, log onto