Nevada County Airport prepares for power shutoffs with new generator |

Nevada County Airport prepares for power shutoffs with new generator

With fire danger and PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoffs among Nevada County’s greatest threats in the upcoming year, county officials are trying to ensure those two concerns aren’t able to compound each other.

Last month, the Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of a $18,459 emergency generator for the Nevada County Airport, allowing search-and-rescue and first responders who use the airport as a staging ground for fire defense to be able to refuel for their flights even during a power shutoff.

In 2015, the county authorized an engineering report to study the emergency readiness of the airport and found that because an electric motor is used to move fuel from its two 12,000 gallon above-ground storage tankers to the aircraft that need it, the airport’s ability to refuel during a power shutoff could be compromised.

“In the event of a power outage, there is no way to get the fuel out of the storage tanks and into the trucks that supply fuel to emergency aircraft,” a county report states.

While the county didn’t have the funds for upgrading at the time, since last year’s power shutoffs the need has been prioritized.

“We’re the sole supplier of fuel up here,” said Nevada County Airport Manager Kevin Edwards. “Cal Fire needs it from us as well as regular tenants, so if there is a massive fire going on during one of these massive shutoff events, we cannot get gas out of our fuel tanks into our fuel trucks. We have 12,000 gallons of jet fuel but I can’t do anything with it when the power is out. If we can at least power up the pumps, then I can get it onto my truck and into aircraft.”

During the power shutoffs last year, Edwards said he quickly realized the importance of a backup power source and found an old, temporary mobile generator in the airport’s fleet yard. Edwards later found out the generator belonged to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

“During the rest of the shutoff we were scrambling around to find another generator,” Edwards said.

Although the generator will help power refueling for emergency responder aircraft, it will not be enough to keep the entire facility running.

“It will power some of our terminal buildings, which will help power our computers and radios, so we can still be functional during the day,” Edwards said. “However, it does not power airport lighting and other airport systems, so when the power is out at night I have to shut the airport down because there are no lights for anyone to come in and land.”

Edwards said the generator will be installed some time next month and although rescue personnel don’t typically operate after dark, they will be able to if they have lighting equipment.

The airport also is close to concluding the cleanup of a hangar that caught fire in 2018, killing one person and injuring another.

The first two phases of the cleanup, totaling just under $500,000, have been completed and the county authorized spending another $485,000 on the final cleanup phase.

The county declared a local emergency and expedited the cleanup process in 2018 in order to mitigate any further damage from weather to the structure.

“The restoration process has been slow, but when you’re dealing with insurance it does take some time,” Edwards said. “Now this is the final piece.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

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