Universities Develop Wildfire Detection, Situational Awareness System
Thursday, November 29, 2018 | Comments

ALERTWildfire, a consortium of three universities — the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR); University of California, San Diego (UCSD); and the University of Oregon (OU) — partnered with California-based GeoLinks, a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC), to deploy wildfire detection, prevention and situational awareness systems across the state of California.

With endorsement from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), California’s new governor-elect Gavin Newsom, and a multitude of utilities and state counties, the project demonstrates the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression, a statement said.

Demand for the rapid system expansion was inspired by a new wildfire camera pan-tilt-zoom technology (PTZ), developed by Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at UNR, which became instrumental in both the response and containment of the 2017 Lilac Fire in San Diego County. GeoLinks plans to deploy 28 additional PTZs by year’s end.

“ALERTWildfire is excited to work with GeoLinks as their resilient communications network throughout California enables a rapid deployment of fire cameras in critical regions of the state,” said Kent. “No other service provider is able to scale to this urgent task, and we look forward to dozens of cameras to be installed month-after-month as we ready ourselves for December 2018 and fire season 2019.”

Collocated across GeoLinks’ vertical assets in greater Los Angeles and Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties, the data collected from the PTZ cameras will be backhauled over GeoLinks’ ClearFiber network to WIFIRE at the San Diego Supercomputer Center in UCSD. WIFIRE, an integrated system for wildfire analysis, analyzes data collected from these cameras to create real-time simulations, wildfire path predictions and visualizations of wildfire behavior. Ultimately, the system will provide strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations and evacuation planning.

UCSD has already identified the next wave of key sites for GeoLinks to connect post initial project completion. Skyler Ditchfield, co-founder and CEO of GeoLinks, notes that with the coverage of fixed wireless broadband that will accompany the camera network, Long Term Evolution (LTE)-based data connectivity and the extension of all first responder handheld radio systems can be efficiently added to close all connectivity gaps. “The fact remains that California is now faced with wildfires year-round,” said Ditchfield. “Wildfire detection, prevention and situational awareness systems provide a solution that could make an immediate, lasting and radical impact on the spread of fires and associated costs, damages, and casualties. GeoLinks, ALERTWildfire, and a variety of other affiliates across the state, including CENIC, are actively pushing the statewide expansion of these technologies. If we had assets installed prior to the Camp Fire’s ignition, for example, we could have saved countless lives. This is really the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.”

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