PG&E to install smoke-detecting fire surveillance in North Bay

As fire seasons become longer and more dangerous, North Bay firefighters will be soon getting some high tech help.

Pacific Gas and Electric has purchased nine new high definition cameras for Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties that can detect smoke.

The new technology will allow Sonoma and Napa county firefighters to have more cameras at more locations as part of the alert-wildfire network. And the new cameras will upgrade Marin’s older models.
From Marin's Emergency Command Center first responders can monitor the hot dry hills from the strategically placed stationary cameras.

"We can zoom in on a fire, we can evaluate what the smoke is doing, if there is no smoke at all. With a comprehensive fire network, in most cases, we will be able to see at night or day where the leading edge of the fire is. And that will give us better intelligence to help us be more efficient in our firefighting," said Marin Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Mark Brown.

The cameras can help firefighters in their efforts to get to a fire before it grows to ten acres.
"Once it hits that 10-acre threshold the growth is so exponential the fire is outpacing our ability to get resources on the fire," said Brown.

The cameras give firefighters valuable information in real time, including when and where the fire may be headed. They also allow the public to log in and see how close a particular fire may be. 

PG&E would not comment on its role in providing the cameras.

Calfire has determined PG&E equipment was responsible for 16 fires that burned through Northern California last year. Firefighters say, with fires getting more dangerous, every tool is valuable.

"When I was coming up as a firefighter, what we would consider extreme fire behavior then, probably is typical fire behavior now,” Brown said. 

The new cameras are expected to be installed by the end of this year.