San Diego gets innovative firefighting technology

A $200,000 infrared video camera that can relay timely
wildfire images to fire commanders was unveiled Wednesday as regional officials
gathered at Montgomery Field to promote cooperative disaster response among
government agencies, businesses and universities.

“San Diegans have a history of coming together during emergencies, as
do local governments and private businesses,” San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders
said. “That same cooperative spirit is on display here today, along with some
of the most innovative fire fighting technology in the nation.”

The camera, which is mounted under a Cal Fire spotter aircraft, can
“see” through smoke to enable firefighters to see temperatures within a
wildfire, signifying hot spots or burned-out areas. That also helps pilots
pinpoint the best spots for water drops.

“The images from this camera will improve firefighter safety and usher
in a new era of real-time tactical information, regardless of the conditions,”
said Ron Roberts, chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

The images would be a part of the “next generation incident command
system” that provides data on where people and equipment are deployed, Roberts
said. He plans to ask the board Sept. 25 to approve $14,400 to cover the cost
of moving the system from MIT's Lincoln Labs to UC San Diego's Supercomputer
Center.

San Diego Gas & Electric contributed $100,000 to the San Diego Regional
Fire & Emergency Services Foundation that provided a grant to the San Diego
County Fire Authority, then matched with county funds to cover the cost of the
camera system.

SDG&E also installed 29 cameras atop transmission towers on the Sunrise
Powerlink route that automatically alert the utility to a perceived threat and
planned to install seven more on the section running through Cleveland National
Forest, officials said.

“The availability of real-time visual data for firefighters from remote
locations around the county — and from the air during actual incidents — is
a huge benefit in coordinating our fire response,” said Thom Porter, Cal
Fire's San Diego Unit Chief and county Fire Authority Unit Chief. “This
capability pushes us way beyond what we've been able to do in the past.”

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