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UC San Diego firefighting camera system hits new milestone

Alert Wildfire
Posted at 12:08 PM, Nov 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-28 10:33:14-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Firefighting cameras are blanketing California, shattering its goal of installing 650 cameras across California by 2022, thanks to the efforts of a UC San Diego professor and his team.

The camera system, called ALERTWildfire, came from a need to confirm the ignition of a fire, and coordinate assets to be the most efficient and safe for the community.

Geology Professor Neal Driscoll at UC San Diego is the Co-Director of ALERTWildfire and said just a couple of years ago it was a slow process confirming a fire sparked in the county.

"We’d have to send an engine to a mountaintop or launch an aircraft to verify ignition," Driscoll said.

That wasted valuable time. ALERTWildfire allows fire command centers to find and assess a blaze with a few clicks on a computer.

Cal Fire Captain Thomas Shoots said they look for key information from the cameras, "really just trying to hone in on where this fire is, what its potential is and who might need to be evacuated."

The system launched in 2017 and now San Diego has 35 cameras across the county.

The cameras pan, tilt and zoom on command and have a time-lapse function.

"The technology isn’t just good situational awareness, it’s also using that data and that information in real-time to evacuate people and save some more lives," Shoots said.

Driscoll said they are continuing to grow the program, "locally I think we’ll cap out at 45-50."

Shoots said they're working to grow to more than 1,000 cameras across the state by 2022 and Driscoll hopes to expand to other states like Colorado and Idaho.

Driscoll advises the public to get familiar with the website, so in case of an emergency, you can be aware of your surroundings and evacuate safely.

Driscoll also advised the public to RAP: Reduce risk, Activate your alerts, and Practice your plan. Ensure you're taking care of your property and creating defensible space, activate emergency alerts on your phone, and have a go-bag in case of an emergency, complete with masks and sanitizer during the pandemic.