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SDG&E cameras prove to be critical fire watch tool for region


Last updated 11/17/2017 at Noon

SAN DIEGO – San Diego Gas & Electric, in collaboration with the University of California San Diego and the Seismology Lab at the University of Nevada Reno, unveiled the new Alert SDG&E Cameras – a set of 15 high-definition cameras designed to improve fire detection and public safety by creating a live-streaming view of San Diego’s most fire-prone areas, Nov. 7. The camera system, developed by the University of Nevada Reno will build upon a larger network already in place in Lake Tahoe, California, and Nevada that has been credited with the early detection of more than 300 fires in the region over the past two years.

SDG&E’s team of meteorologists and professors at the University of California San Diego have worked closely to study early wildfire detection and to improve upon the previous camera system that provided a full 360-degree view, every other minute. The updated state-of-the-art camera system has live video, can show time-lapse scenarios, can pan, tilt and zoom, utilizes near-infrared capabilities for night vision, uses machine vision to detect smoke and can link to incident command centers to notify fire officials when a plume of smoke appears. With public safety in mind, local firefighters have full control of the cameras while also giving them extra eyes in the field to help improve planning, preparing and responding to wildfire emergencies. The camera system also has been designed to allow for public access, giving residents the ability to monitor conditions within their community day or night.

“Adding this sophisticated set of cameras is providing us with a level of real-time situational awareness we’ve never had before. Not only are we able to zoom in on ignition points using multiple cameras, we can pinpoint almost instant fire proximity and notify first responders,” Caroline Winn, SDG&E’s chief operating officer, said. “Having this information at our fingertips could provide critical minutes needed to protect people, power structures and property.”

Strategically installed on communication towers throughout the fire threat zones, the Alert SDG&E Cameras are looking out over locations like Mt. Woodson, Boucher Hill, Otay Mountain, Red Mountain in Fallbrook and Lyons Peak.

“The safety of my firefighters and the communities they protect is my priority, so having more information about a fire before we encounter it is an added safety measure that benefits our first responders,” San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy said. “Having access to a live view of our highest fire risk areas will greatly improve situational awareness, our coordination with Cal Fire and allow for quicker response times, better response strategies and faster evacuation orders to ensure our communities are better prepared in the face of a wildfire.”

Determining the location of a fire is accomplished by triangulation, the process of focusing different cameras on the fire throughout the Alert SDG&E Camera network. It provides an accurate location for first responders and could change fire suppression methods from reactive to proactive, reducing the potential size, impact and public costs of wildfires.

“Understanding and protecting the planet is one of UC San Diego’s core research themes, and collaborations like this that improve technology to respond to hazards impacting our state are a great example of what’s possible,” University of California San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla said. “This new upgraded camera network will be a resource for the public and those working to protect the public for years to come.”

Additionally, SDG&E has made significant investments in fire preparedness to protect communities, including modernizing thousands of wood poles with fire-resistant steel poles, adding air resources and equipment, developing critical weather and fire forecasting technology and investing in better communications tools that has made the electric system more resilient against severe weather.

“Fire conditions throughout the state of California are very concerning and illustrates the need for an early warning system, which these cameras are bringing to the region of San Diego,” California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said. “I was briefed on the UC San Diego and SDG&E effort to put seismic sensors and fire-watching video cameras in high wildfire risk areas of San Diego earlier this year and am encouraged by reports the system is capably detecting wildfires and protecting life and property year-round.”

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