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L.A. County considers automated wildfire detection system

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich wants Los Angeles County to maintain an automated early detection and response system that could put out wildfires within minutes after they break out.

Antonovich called for a study into establishing the 24-hour, all-weather system in a motion filed today in response to last summer's Station fire, the largest wildfire in Los Angeles County history, which scorched more than 160,000 acres in the Angeles National Forest and killed two firefighters.

L.A. County fire officials have been critical of the U.S. Forest Service's response to the Station fire, which began Aug. 26, including the decision to withhold water-dropping aircraft while the blaze was still small.

Antonovich and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) have called for a congressional inquiry into the agency's response. 

"The Station Fire graphically spotlights the need to study and identify solutions for establishing an automated early detection system," the motion reads. "The goal of a technology-based system would be to identify new fires as they start and have a programmed airborne response within minutes to suppress the fire before it spreads."

The Board of Supervisors will consider the motion at its meeting today. If approved, the county's Quality and Productivity Commission would be directed to study options and report back in four months.

Tony Bell, a spokesman for Antonovich, said the commission would be instructed to look far and wide for technology that could be applied to local wildfires, including satellite imagery and military surveillance systems.

"It would involve looking at other states, counties and what's being used anywhere in the world to provide early notification of a fire hazard and allow us an opportunity to suppress it before it becomes a disaster," Bell said. "At this point, it's our obligation to look at any possible technological advances that will help us fight fires."

Changes to policy or technology should be made before the next fire season begins, Antonovich wrote.

--Tony Barboza


Comments () | Archives (6)

Sounds like a good idea, but i say we get through this mess that were in first. You know like budgets and all the good stuff.

We used to have fire-spotting towers in higher elevations with real people keeping watch on the horizon. They are still there, but most are unmanned. Maybe its possible to make some kind of heat detector machine that scans around looking for heat and phones home when heat is detected.

I want to say I work for the Forest Service and was there when the station fire first started and I’m sick and tired of people blaming the forest service for what happen, that have no idea what they are talking about. Being that I’m a federal employee I can’t reveal my info. The fire got away on the L.A County side of the fire not on our side. L.A County wants to resort to finger pointed and we are not allowed to say nothing. For the people that were there we know the truth. That night the fire spotted on L.A County division and once that happen it was no catching the fire no matter how many resources or water dropping helicopter you have out there. If you don’t understand wildland fire, from the outside it would look like we was not doing a good job. In order for the water dropping helicopter to be effective you have to have firefighters on the ground. With the terrain being so steep and dangerous there was no way anyone was going to go down there to try and catch the fire. It was just the perfect storm and the perfect time.

to federal firefighter:

If what you say is true then why are so many USFS Fire personel telling stories
that conflict with yours ?

Why is a gag order neccessary if the truth favors the USFS ?

It is not the firefighters on the ground that we have a beef with, it is the
incident command and forest supervisor's office that needs to be truthful.

Satellite imagery and military surveillance systems are great, but without
the management in place to use that data it will do no good.
BTW, they have most of that technology right now.

I would like to know how much money has been spent in the last ten years
on new technology and fire science in the ANF. How much was spent on advanced communication equipment ? You can bet it was in the millions.

How many hazard reduction projects did the USFS bill for ?

And in the end they burnt 150 square miles !

Please do not reward the USFS for their failures by handing them another
large check.

They have to be aware that the more fires they suppress the more fuel there will be to burn in future fires.
You have to face that fact that fires will always happen in these areas and build homes in defensible space using appropriate materials and building techniques that will minimize the chances for the homes to burn.
If I was a fire commander, I would not send any of my firefighters in to risk there lives to try and save a house that was built in the middle of a chaparral filled canyon. If you want to build your home in the areas you must be willing to accept the risks.
There is no amount of hazard reduction reduction or early detection that will keep this from happening again.


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