SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – A camera system designed to detect wildfires across California will get a big tech 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 forest fires. It has been in place since 2017 and is steadily increasing each year.

The new technology will help them do a lot more.

“We live in an extreme climate. We need all of our assets,” says Dr. Neal Driscoll, professor of geology / geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and director of AlertWildfire at UC San Diego.

RELATED: Technology Helps Firefighters Locate Wildfires

“This new technology will provide information, it will allow us to better understand the behavior of fires,” he said. “I hope this can fuel first responders and the way they mobilize their resources.”

Dr. Driscoll says the money will go to “phase 2” of the program. This includes three specific improvements:

  1. New sensors on cameras that can measure fuel load and humidity
  2. New infrared cameras to deploy to demarcate the perimeter of a fire in smoky conditions or on rugged topography
  3. Imagine airborne all areas considered to be level 2 and 3 fire threat regions

Dr Driscoll says all of this information will help firefighters deal with any fire that breaks out.

“We like to fight incipient fires because every fire starts small,” he says. “Once they become explosive, we move from attack to defense. We will use that data, that actionable real-time data, to inform decisions.”

RELATED: UC San Diego’s Firefighting Camera System Takes New Milestone

According to Cal Fire spokesperson Captain Thomas Shoots, the additional technology will be of a “huge benefit” to wildfire control efforts across San Diego.

“We’ve seen some of the canopy studies, all the different ways that can potentially help us in the planning process and the response process,” he says. “Things move quickly, and having this technological component allows us to adapt quickly to get this message across faster.”

RELATED: Cameras and Software Help San Diego Firefighters Respond Quickly to Flames

Dr Driscoll says all data will be open source and available to anyone who wants to view it. He says everything will go live in the next couple of years.

To view the current AlertWildfire cameras, click here.


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