As part of its ongoing response to the state’s drought conditions and to identify trees that could cause a wildfire or power outage, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will conduct aerial and foot patrols in the foothills of Butte and Yuba counties on Tuesday, Sept. 21, as part of the company’s vegetation management program.  

The helicopter patrol will cover areas of Bangor, including portions of Oro Banger Highway, Los Verjeles Road, and La Porte Road west of the intersection with Oro Bangor highway., including nearby portions of Yuba County.   Residents are advised that the helicopter will fly low – about 200 to 300 feet – along distribution power lines, and higher in areas where livestock are present. If needed, the spotter in the helicopter will send ground crews to conduct further inspections.  

“We are patrolling, by foot and by helicopter, along power lines in high fire-threat areas to identify trees that are dead or have become structurally compromised. Whether it is due to years of drought, current dry conditions or increased wildfire risk, or bark beetle infestation, we are seeing more dead, diseased, dying or defective trees during these patrols,” said Adam Bakker, senior manager of PG&E’s vegetation management program for PG&E’s North Valley Division. “These patrols are in addition to the tree inspections we conduct on foot in high fire-threat areas and provide a second set of eyes for trees that could grow to within 4 feet of the lines or have the potential to fail and strike the power lines.”  

Aerial patrols are one of the many ways PG&E is working to manage trees and other vegetation located near power lines that could create a safety risk. To help keep customers and communities safe in the face of the growing wildfire risk, PG&E inspects approximately 100,000 miles of overhead power lines every year, with some locations patrolled multiple times a year. Every year, the company prunes or cuts down more than 1 million trees that may pose a potential risk to electric equipment.  

“We have had back-to-back years of well below normal precipitation and most of California is currently in ‘extreme’ drought conditions. If you take away a couple wet years like 2016-2017, five of the past eight years have experienced below average precipitation. That is where it becomes more of a compounding problem as far as tree health,” said Richard Bagley, PG&E senior meteorologist.

Depending on clear weather conditions, foresters will fly between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Flights will occur in elevated (Tier 2) and extreme (Tier 3) High Fire-Threat Districts (HFTD’s), as identified by the California Public Utilities Commission.