How cutting-edge technology at a SoCal emergency operations center helps firefighters

The Palisades Fire, fueled by old and dry vegetation that hadn't burned in more than 50 years, burned through about 1,300 acres back in May

Firefighters on the ground stopped it from spreading, but it was firefighters in a command center that were able to predict its path.

"To me, it's a game changer," said Los Angeles City Fire Department Assistant Chief Carlos Calvillo of the computer system known as WiFire. The software analyzes the weather, terrain and other key data that can show where a fire will move.

"It's a tool, it's not the decision-maker but it's something that we use to process information and make decisions with," he added.

As the commander of the Metro Fire Dispatch, Calvillo uses the information to help make those quick decisions. He showed Eyewitness News how it works by setting up a simulation of a fire starting in Mandeville Canyon.

"Let's assume that it's a Santa Ana day and I got 25 mile an hour winds, it's 97 degrees, " he said as he input the data.

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In an actual fire, the computer would gather all the real-time weather data. In seconds it crunches the numbers and comes up with a detailed prediction of where the fire is expected to go, if left to burn.

"And it's telling me the times, the number of acres, the population that it's going to impact... how many people are going to be evacuated... and the number of homes that are going to be impacted by the growth of this fire," Calvillo added.

He recalled how the technology helped during the Saddle Ridge Fire when police called to start evacuations.
All the information from the city, county and state is analyzed at the Emergency Operations Center "to help us make appropriate decisions and for us to be able to get that information to the incident commanders to get the appropriate quantity and type of resources to mitigate an emergency," said LAFD Capt. Erik Scott.

Firefighters always have eyes on any fire with cameras spread out all over Southern California.

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They've been set up by separate agencies but fire officials can access them, giving them a wide view of the entire fire and the surrounding area.

"This allows us a real-time picture of what's happening in the field, allows us to work with out personnel who are responding and ideally vanquish the flames before they cause problems," said LAFD spokesperson Brian Humphrey.

Officials say that technology is the future of firefighting. As we see more and more brush fires across California, they will be using smart technology to make quick decisions that will save property and lives.

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