IMPORTANT! While FIRESafe MARIN and Marin County Fire Department offer a limited "live" view of the cameras online, we want to remind residents and visitors that the view on our website is NOT the full display available to fire managers, and is NOT intended for the public to monitor their neighborhoods for fires or provide evacuation information!
During California’s record drought conditions of 2014, FIRESafe MARIN, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and Marin County Fire Department collaborated on the installation of a high-tech, remote wildfire detection system on four critical peaks in Marin county. FIRESafe MARIN donated the $207,000 system, funded through a partnership with PG&E, installing the special cameras, support software, servers, and panoramic monitoring displays in the Emergency Command Center in Woodacre, where dispatchers will have access to the system 24-hours a day during fire season. The effort is part of an ongoing partnership between PG&E and private, public and community organizations to prevent additional fires from sparking during the California wildfire season, which typically reaches its peak in late fall.
“PG&E and FIRESafe MARIN worked hard to secure this critical funding,” said Todd Lando, Coordinator for FIRESafe MARIN. “Our partnership with PG&E and Marin County Fire Department provided the opportunity to improve the County’s wildfire detection and monitoring capabilities, supplementing the daytime-only volunteer fire lookouts with 24-hour coverage, and views from additional peaks in northern and West Marin.” FIRESafe MARIN will donate the system to the County of Marin.
The remote fire detection system will enable Marin County Fire Department to monitor and detect wildfires around the clock, covering a larger land area than is currently visible from the two fire lookouts at Mt. Tamalpais and Mt. Barnabe. The system will be installed October 20-22, 2014, with cameras and networking equipment at the Gardner Fire Lookout on Mt. Tamalpais’ East Peak, the Dickson Fire Lookout on Mt. Barnabe near Lagunitas, Big Rock Ridge, and Point Reyes Hill. The system will be operable immediately, providing for enhanced fire protection for residents and businesses during the critical period late in the 2014 fire season.
The ForestWatch® camera system, developed by EnviroVision Solutions of Roseburg, Oregon, and South Africa, will help with early fire detection, mapping the exact location of wildfires, and providing GIS information to fire personnel responding to early reports of fires.
“Marin has had an unusual numbers of wildfires that burned for relatively long periods before being reported or located in 2014,” says Deputy Fire Chief Mark Brown of Marin County Fire Department. “An early season fire below the Dickson Lookout on Mt Barnabe burned for several hours before being located, and a recent fire in Roy’s Redwoods Open Space Preserve likely burned for some time before being reported. The advent of cell phones has revolutionized the reporting of wildfires, but Marin still has a recognized issue with locating fires once they’ve been reported. Often times, visitors call to report wildfires in their early stages, but aren’t able to give us an accurate location because they don’t have a good understanding of Marin’s geography. We think the ForestWatch system will be another tool in our tool-chest to help locate fires early, when they are most controllable.”
Fire Chief Jason Weber of Marin County Fire Department highlighted the multi-agency cooperation involved in implementing the system. “The installation of a state of the art system like this would not have been possible without a tremendous amount of work by a large group of dedicated people at the County of Marin DPW Communications Division, Marin County Fire Department, FIRESafe MARIN, PG&E, MERA, and others. Supervisor Katie Rice was instrumental through her support of FIRESafe MARIN and encouragement of the system in the early stages.”
“We live and work in this community and are excited about the state-of-the art capabilities this system will provide to help us detect and manage wildfires. By funding this project, we are adding a high-tech element to our efforts to keep Marin’s communities safe,” says FIRESafe MARIN President Mike Swezy.
PG&E and FIRESafe MARIN are currently collaborating on several other wildfire projects in Marin for the 2014 drought emergency and fire season, including a residential chipper program, and vegetation removal and fire-break projects at Puerto Suello Hill, King Mountain, Woodland Avenue, and Mt. Tamalpais.
Marin’s historic fire lookouts at Mt Tamalpais and Mt Barnabe are currently staffed by a corps of volunteers during the daytime only. Marin County Fire Department intends to continue the volunteer lookout program, supplementing volunteers with the ForestWatch® system, and giving fire managers a new tool that allows them to see what the lookouts see, day or night. An excellent 2012 video titled “ A Day In the Life of a Lookout,” produced by one of marin’s volunteer fire lookouts, is viewable online at http://vimeo.com/48169212.
Statewide, CAL FIRE has responded to more than 5,000 wildfires since January—about 1,000 more than average for this time of year. October is historically the peak of the wildfire season, highlighted by the Vision Fire near Inverness on October 3, 1995 burning 12,000 acres and 45 homes, and the Oakland hills ‘Tunnel Fire” on October 20, 1991 which to this day is the most destructive wildfire in US history, burning 3,354 homes.
"ForestWatch" and EnviroVision Solutions
EnviroVison Solutions (EVS) was established in 2009 and is located in Roseburg Oregon. President of EnviroVision USA, George Day, previously with Douglas Forest Protective Association, was so impressed with the effective early wildfire detection and monitoring system provided by ForestWatch® that he decided to offer EVS services in the USA. Currently, there are 5 employees providing sales, service and support of the USA and Canada. ForestWatch® is a leading company in Wildfire Camera Detection Systems using image based fire detection software it is one of the most advanced automated wildfire detection systems in the world. EVS has multiple Wildfire Detection operation centers around the world including one in Roseburg, Oregon with 29 cameras covering over 10 million acres. The Oregon system is comprised of several wildland fire agencies working together to provide mutual support for early detection of wildfire. Partnering agencies at the Roseburg operations center are the Oregon Department of Forestry, United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and two local Wildfire Associations, including Douglas Forest Protective Association (DFPA) and Coos Forest Protective Association (CFPA). In 2013 EVS installed a 42 tower system in Saskatchewan Canada, as well as a system for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource in 2013.
ForestWatch® uses high quality off the shelf cameras capable of pan, tilt and 36X Optical Zoom, in automatic and fully manual modes, to monitor forest or city areas. The images are sent to a control center where they can be viewed and monitored by operators who then notify dispatch centers of the wildfire. The systems also feature advanced, intelligent software and sensors which automatically detect scene changes, and promptly alert operators to the fact. While some automated detection systems use only black and white footage, EVS systems use the full visible color spectrum. By using full color our systems are more sensitive to subtle changes in the scene they are monitoring. As a result they have a higher rate of accurate detection and a lower rate of false alarms. The ForestWatch® software provides automatic smoke recognition/detection.
The ForestWatch® software uses on site compression to help operate with lower bandwidths, while retaining high quality color images. This is accomplished utilizing an Image Sampling Engine (ISE) at each tower or high site. Using low light and near infrared capable cameras enables excellent night detection and allows 24/7 protection. By Geo-referencing the video images we offer precise location of any visible smoke or feature. We use standard ESRI GIS compatibility for displaying map features. Integrated Geo-referencing pinpoints fire start locations. ForestWatch® also has the ability to receive and display Automated Vehicle (AVL) locations, weather, and lightning data. All images are date and time stamped. ForestWatch® provides for the storing of images for multiple days, dependent on storage space available, for historic review to assist with investigations and after action reviews. Logged alarms, photos and videos are stored indefinitely. While the detection system has been used to find lost people or enhance onsite security and other secondary functions, fire detection and monitoring remains the prime focus.
An additional service that EVS can provide a client is ForestWatch® Online. This allows cooperators to login to a web service that provides camera images in near real time. Historic images of detected fires that have been logged into the system by the camera operator are also available with this web service.
Real time fire intelligence and situational awareness provided by ForestWatch® can improve fire fighter safety, saving lives and resources, while reducing firefighting costs. Currently EVS USA is installing the ForestWatch system at approximately 20 tower sites and 7 motioning centers in Northern and Central California. The Early Warning Camera System will be run and monitored by CalFire or local fire services staff. The automated software that runs the camera is designed and focused to scan distant horizons looking for plumes of smoke. The resolution of the images is no different than what a member of the public might see while standing on an adjacent hillside or roadway looking across a canyon or valley.
Only when the automated system detects smoke or system operator sees a smoke will the camera be considered for use to "zoom-in." The resolution of the zoomed image will, in almost all cases be significantly less that what the CalFire helicopter would see if it were dispatched to investigate a likely fire. The only cases where the resolution might be greater would be around the base of the tower. In that case, the camera could be used with specific permission and/or request of the tower owner for tower security purposes