New cameras monitoring OC hillsides to help firefighters prevent spread of wildfires

Jessica De Nova Image
Friday, October 18, 2019
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Firefighters and volunteers in Orange County are using cameras and a virtual fire tower to prevent the spread of wildfires.

ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- Technology is helping firefighters and volunteers prevent wildfires from spreading.

John Butler is a volunteer with Orange County Fire Watch. He remembers what the 2017 Canyon Fire did to Peter's Canyon, saying it devastated the place in an hour.

When the Santa Ana winds come and the fire danger is high, Butler is out monitoring.

"We look to make sure that people are behaving themselves in the park, make sure that they're walking around with water and also that they're not smoking or doing anything crazy like that," Butler said.

His eyes on the ground can now count on at least 60 cameras across the county put up by Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric.

"That will help tremendously because we're down here. They're looking up and they're looking down into the valleys and stuff like that," Butler said.

Butler is talking about more volunteers at a virtual fire tower using the Alert Wildfire system website.

O.C. Fire Watch Manager Tony Pointer is usually keeping an eye on the cameras.

"This allows us to have fixed locations for volunteers and staff to monitor it on a consistent basis as its own station in our operations center," Pointer said.

Nearly 400 people volunteer their time to help O.C. Parks, fire crews in Orange County and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy get on site before things get out of control.

Capt. Paul Holaday with the Orange County Fire Authority said the cameras are a great asset.

"The cameras are a great asset because we're able to look back in those canyons where we can't drive and you can't get access to, and we can really get a good look at our area of protection," Holaday said.

Pointer said the public can also access the Alert Wildfire cameras and call in any possible fire starts.