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California wildfire camera system expands into 'Phase 2'

State gives $15 million for new technology
Posted at 6:02 AM, Sep 03, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A system of cameras designed to spot wildfires across the California will get a big technology boost thanks to $15 million from the state government.

The AlertWildfire system has more than 850 cameras across California, including 37 in San Diego County. First responders use them to spot wildfires. It has been in place since 2017, and steadily grown each year.

The new technology will help them do a lot more.

"We're in an extreme climate. We need all of our assets," says Dr. Neal Driscoll, a professor of geology/geophysics with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the head of AlertWildfire at UC San Diego.

RELATED: Technology helps firefighters pinpoint wildfires

"This new technology will provide intel, it will provide us a better understanding of fire behavior," he says. "Hopefully, this can feed into first responders and how they marshal their resources."

Dr. Driscoll says the money will go towards "Phase 2" of the program. That includes three specific improvements:

  1. New sensors on the cameras that can measure fuel load and moisture
  2. New infrared cameras to deploy to define a fire's perimeter in smoky conditions or on rugged topography
  3. Airborne imagine of all areas considered Tier 2 and Tier 3 fire-threat regions

Dr. Driscoll says all of this information will help firefighters when battling any fire that starts.

"We like to fight fires in the incipient phase because every fire starts small," he says. "Once they get explosive, we go from offense to defense. We'll use these data, these actionable real-time data, to inform decisions."

RELATED: UC San Diego firefighting camera system hits new milestone

According to Cal Fire spokesperson Capt. Thomas Shoots, the extra technology will be a "huge benefit" to wildfire efforts across San Diego.

"We've seen some of the canopy studies, all the different ways that this can potentially help us in the planning process and the response process," he says. "Things are changing rapidly, and having that technology component allows us to be able to adapt rapidly to get that message out there quicker."

RELATED: Cameras and software helps San Diego firefighters quickly respond to flames

Dr. Driscoll says all of the data will be open-sourced and available to anyone who wants to look at it. He says it will all come online over the next couple of years.

To view the current AlertWildfire cameras, click here.