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Aerial Assault on Wildfire Threats

SCE helicopters and linemen soar to install fire-resistant power lines and new poles atop remote peaks.

For several years, Southern California Edison has deployed an innovative work method called Human External Cargo on remote transmission systems that boast towering lattice structures hundreds of yards apart in very rough terrain. Linemen are connected to a helicopter by cable, allowing them to hopscotch from tower to tower, completing work in days, not weeks.

SCE’s Air Ops team is now employing similar tactics to install insulated, covered conductor power lines and new poles in difficult-to-access, wildfire-prone areas like Orange County’s Santiago Peak. As part of the company’s comprehensive
wildfire mitigation strategy, SCE plans to replace 1,100 miles of bare wire with insulated power lines in 2022.

Here is a photo essay showing some of this electrifying work in progress.

A reel of covered conductor is airlifted from the staging area to one of the remote pole locations where the insulated power lines will be strung using a helicopter.
A reel of covered conductor is airlifted from the staging area to one of the remote pole locations where the insulated power lines will be strung using a helicopter.


The covered conductor reels can weigh more than 3,000 pounds and carry up to 5,000 feet of wire. A lightweight frame is needed to help SCE helicopters overcome performance limitations.
The covered conductor reels can weigh more than 3,000 pounds and carry up to 5,000 feet of wire. A lightweight frame is needed to help SCE helicopters overcome performance limitations.


Two pairs of linemen are dropped off near a series of poles. They make a short hike to the pole they will work on for the next few hours.
Two pairs of linemen are dropped off near a series of poles. They make a short hike to the pole they will work on for the next few hours.


Linemen are harnessed in pairs securely latched onto a helicopter rope system. The Human External Cargo work method quickly and efficiently allows workers access to areas where an aircraft landing zone cannot be established.
Linemen are harnessed in pairs securely latched onto a helicopter rope system. The Human External Cargo work method quickly and efficiently allows workers access to areas where an aircraft landing zone cannot be established.


Linemen are dropped off at each pole location where they will help set poles and guide the aerial stringing of covered conductor to rebuild and strengthen the grid for wildfire resiliency.
Linemen are dropped off at each pole location where they will help set poles and guide the aerial stringing of covered conductor to rebuild and strengthen the grid for wildfire resiliency.


An SCE helicopter airlifts a distribution pole, which is wrapped in fire-retardant material. Linemen help guide the pole into a hand-dug hole, which they will quickly backfill with gravel once the pole is set.
An SCE helicopter airlifts a distribution pole, which is wrapped in fire-retardant material. Linemen help guide the pole into a hand-dug hole, which they will quickly backfill with gravel once the pole is set.


SCE chief pilot TC Corell communicates with ground personnel to coordinate the airlift, including five line crews of five linemen each and five two-person civil crews, who support the hand-digging.
SCE chief pilot TC Corell communicates with ground personnel to coordinate the airlift, including five line crews of five linemen each and five two-person civil crews, who support the hand-digging.


An SCE Bell 429 helicopter pulls insulated power lines from one pole to another situated across a ravine. Without the aerial stringing of lines, the process of installing power lines would be significantly more labor-intensive.
An SCE Bell 429 helicopter pulls insulated power lines from one pole to another situated across a ravine. Without the aerial stringing of lines, the process of installing power lines would be significantly more labor-intensive.

For more information regarding wildfire safety, visit Edison.com/wildfire-safety.