Sonoma Water
Released by: Water Agency
For Immediate Release

Value of Fire Cameras Highlighted in Detection
and Suppression of Wildland Fire East of Geyserville

Geyserville, CA  –  October 6, 2018  –  WA_logo_219.jpgTwo months after the directors of Sonoma Water and the Board of Supervisors agreed to fund a pilot project of fire cameras to provide early detection of wildfires, the nascent network of fire-detecting apparatus demonstrated its value when a camera atop Geyser Peak spotted a recently ignited fire and allowed firefighters to locate and quickly suppress the blaze.

Just before 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 16, a 9-1-1 caller reported smoke coming from the area of Pine Mountain, east of Cloverdale. Officials at the CAL FIRE Emergency Command Center in St. Helena checked the fire camera located on Pine Mountain and were not able to see anything. They then checked the camera on Geyser Peak and the fire was spotted on Pocket Ranch Road. Fire crews, airplanes and a helicopter were dispatched and the fire, dubbed the Coyote Fire, was contained to one acre. The firefighting helicopter was able to use a pond on the property to douse the fire.

“This was the perfect example of how these fire cameras are supposed to work,” said Aaron Abbott, Executive Director of REDCOM, the countywide dispatch center for fire emergencies. “We’ll never know if this fire would have gotten out of control and burned several hundred acres, or even more. But we know that it didn’t. CAL FIRE was able to put the right resources on it and the right incident command and it was controlled quickly.”

CAL FIRE Chief Ben Nicholls said the cameras helped locate the fire and saved time and resources in sending firefighters and equipment to the correct location. “This was critical in terms of saving time by not committing resources to the wrong location and being out of position,” he said. “It was the perfect case scenario for the use of these cameras to locate fires.”

Dr. Neal Driscoll, a professor of geology and geophysics at UC San Diego and co-leader of ALERTWildfire, which is installing the fire camera network, said the sequence of events this week were fairly typical. “Often, when fires are reported the 911 caller doesn’t have an accurate geographic location,” said Driscoll. “Cameras give us the opportunity to confirm the location. The perfect example of this just happened this week when a caller said the fire was on Pine Mountain. CAL FIRE checked the camera and then checked an adjacent camera and were able to locate the fire and determine its longitude and latitude. These cameras allow first responders and dispatchers to scale the response accordingly, which is really important.”

“It is extremely gratifying when we can see positive results from a project like ALERTWildfire,” said Sonoma Water Director and Board of Supervisors Chair James Gore. “This is a perfect illustration of the value of this camera network, and we are committed to working with our partners to complete this North Bay regional network.”

The AlertWildfire network has time lapse video of the incident.
Coyote Fire at 3 PM:
Coyote Fire at 4 PM:

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and the Sonoma Water Board of Directors (Supervisors also serve as the Sonoma Water Board) approved separate measures to fund the network of eight fire cameras on August 7, 2018, with the initial goal of providing early detection of wildfires in the Lake Sonoma Watershed that supplies drinking water for more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties. But the network is growing throughout the North Bay, with PG&E recently committing to fund an additional 9 cameras throughout Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties. The cameras are invaluable in detecting fires and provide firefighters with greater awareness of a fire’s severity, where it is spreading and how quickly it is growing.

Funding for the Lake Sonoma Watershed Fire Camera Pilot Project came from the Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water), which contributed $477,037 to have the system of cameras installed, maintained and operated for the first year. The project is a collaboration among numerous agencies, including Sonoma Water, Sonoma County Fire and Emergency Services, Sheriff’s Office, County Information Services Department, County General Services Department, Pepperwood Preserve, Fairfield Osborn Preserve, Sonoma State University, The Regents of the University of California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (U.C. San Diego), and the ALERTWildfire consortium of universities.

Cameras are being located on mountain tops and high-visibility locations that allow the cameras to locate fire ignition spots by using triangulation. The state-of-the-art system uses near-infrared technology for night vision, and allows fire officials to take control of the fire cameras during wildfire emergencies to monitor fire and weather activity.


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