Cal Fire using new AI tool to watch for fire during North Bay red-flag warning

A red flag warning due to wildfire weather conditions is set to last from 11 p.m. Wednesday to 5 p.m. Thursday in the mountainous parts of Napa and Sonoma counties.

The smoky air drifting down from Oregon and Northern California wildfires already had raised concerns for North Bay residents Wednesday.

"When I woke up this morning, I saw the smoke, so I looked it up this morning to see what's going on," Sam Gade of Calistoga, who manages Gott's Roadside restaurant in St. Helena.

The red-flag warning and the threat of wildfire conditions close to home, brought added worries for people in Sonoma, Napa and Lake Counties.

"I think now that we've had a couple really serious fire seasons in the past, people take these warnings very seriously and they're really important to the locals," said Emma Salvestrin of St. Helena.

"I have three backup phone chargers ready. I have a survival pack ready," said Gade.

Low humidity and the possibility of high wind gusts up to 30-miles-an-hour on area mountain peaks prompted the red flag warning.  

"The eastern portions and the northern side of Napa County is one of the areas, the Mayacamas," said Jason Clay, a Cal Fire public information officer with the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit.

Jason Clay, the Cal Fire spokesman for the Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit, took us inside their command center in St. Helena.

"We're at our peak staffing levels. For this red flag warning," said Clay. 


South Bay air quality suffers under smoky haze due to wildfires

South Bay air quality suffers as smoke from wildfires hundreds of miles away hangs over the region.

That peak staffing includes 31 engines, six handcrews, six bulldozers, along with aerial units that are positioned to respond within 20 minutes to any fire.

Cal Fire also has a new, high-tech network of cameras. The St. Helena Emergency Command Center helped beta test and launch the statewide Alert California network, training the remote-controlled camera system to spot potential fires using artifical intelligence.

"We now have the ability of AI, artificial intelligence, so what it does is picks up anomalies," said Cal Fire Captain Jay Smith with the St. Helena Emergency Command Center.

"It will pick up something that it thinks is smoke. It could be fog. It could be a light, whatever it might be, so we're teaching it, no it's not smoke, it's this. So it learns," said Captain Smith.

Cal Fire crews will be on alert.and with smoky air already hovering in the areas, they ask the public to be careful about calling 9-1-1.

"If they see flames, if they see a defined column of smoke that is definitely something to call 9-1-1," said Clay.