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|Last Updated: Monday, November 05, 2012|
CAL FIRE Using Webcams To Assist With Fire Detection and Attack
A new partnership has been formed between the University of California San Diego, CAL FIRE, and San Diego County that is helping CAL FIRE/San Diego County FIre Authority to monitor the rural areas of San Diego, California for wildfires. The project, known as FireSite, is using webcams to show firefighters, Incident Commanders and dispatchers a real time, 360 degree view of areas that were previously difficult to view.
The FireSite project is an extensive video network that was made possible with funding from a $36,000 grant from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. According to Fire Captain Mike Mohler with CAL FIRE/San Diego County Fire Authority, FireSite is a web-based program that was developed through UCSD and can be accessed by the public or emergency agencies.
Feeds come from UCSD's High Performance Wireless Research & Education Network, or HPWREN, which sends images wirelessly to a server. "It gives us eyes where we don't have them," said Mohler.
The cameras are mounted on existing radio towers on mountains, giving firefighters and dispatchers a 360 degree view that is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, through the internet.
"We'll get reports of a smoke and we'll utilize these cameras. They show us different angles of the county, and then we can look and see what color the smoke is, how much smoke is being produced. It also helps us when there are cells, cloud cells, as far as lightning," explained Tanya Yenawine, Communications Operator for CAL FIRE/San Diego County Fire Authority.
On the Lyons Peak camera, there is also a remote weather station which includes temperature, wind direction, speed, as well as humidity. "So not only is that dispatcher getting a view of what's going on, but they're getting current weather," added Mohler.
The cameras are mounted in an enclosure that protects them from the weather and the cameras will also report back any technical difficulties.
"This is just another tool in the toolbox for early detection and rapid response," Mohler explained. He goes on to say, one of the beneficial features of the webcams is that they are accessible for Incident Commanders once they are inside of their vehicle. "They can use their Toughbooks to see what is going on."
Captain Mohler explained, "He can guide aircraft and say, 'I'm looking at a southern view from Lyons Peak.' He'll relay that to Air Attack or the Aircraft Supervisor, and they know exactly what heading they are going to be on. So, it helps them, but it also helps the ground crews. The crews on the ground are also going to know where to start placing their resources immediately."
At some point in the future, this technology could be available to other fire departments and agencies. Currently, the FireSite project covers approximately 400 square miles; however, as it grows, more cameras will be added to cover the 1.4 million acres CAL FIRE handles in San Diego County.
View the cameras at hpwren.ucsd.edu/cameras.
Contributors To This Story:
Barbara Brooks - Video Story
Ann Zevely - Camera/ Editing
Renee Marquart - Text Story
Author:Barbara Brooks - FDNNTV.com
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