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Helicopter strikes power line near Calistoga

Two small fires started when a helicopter contracted by PG&E hit a power line near Calistoga causing a power outage affecting 8,300 PG&E customers in Calistoga and Lake County Thursday afternoon, a PG&E spokeswoman said.

The fires occurred in the 3000 block of Palisades Road in unincorporated Napa County just north of Calistoga, Cal Fire spokesman Will Powers said.

The fires burned a half-acre and one acre, Powers said.

Only 17 customers were without power in Calistoga early this evening, PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said

PG&E this week said it is patrolling Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties with a Bell 407 helicopter and a Bell 206L3 Ranger helicopter to look for vegetation near electric lines in high fire threat areas.

A helicopter with three contractors aboard was patrolling the Calistoga area today when it touched a power line, Contreras confirmed.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said a Bell 206L4 helicopter struck power lines while performing inspections about 3-4 miles northwest of Calistoga around 1:10 p.m.

The impact cut the power lines, which fell to the ground, sparking a brush fire, Gregor said. The helicopter made a precautionary landing. The three people on board were not injured, Gregor said.

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