Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine) presented a $15 million check on behalf of the State of California to ALERTWildfire program representatives and their partners. ALERTWildfire is a consortium of three universities– the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Oregon– working closely with partners across the region, including the Orange County Fire Authority and Southern California Edison here in Orange County, to develop better solutions for early wildfire detection and prevention.
Phase 1 of the ALERTWildfire program deployed 700 remote cameras to provide early detection for wildfires and has been seen as greatly successful in preventing and combating wildfires. Phase 2 of the program, which will be funded by Senator Min’s procurement in the 2021-22 budget, will create an infrared map of fuel concentrations in fire-prone areas around the state, better informing fuel reduction efforts and helping to more effectively deploy first responders during wildfires.
“The unfortunate reality is that because of climate change, California is facing an omnipresent threat of wildfires,” Min said. “We must be better prepared for these threats, and provide our first responders with the tools they need to reduce the risk of fires, and to be better equipped to fight them. I am proud that we were able to fund the Phase 2 expansion of the ALERTWildfire program, which will serve these goals and help to protect the safety of our communities and first responders.”
UCSD Professor Neal Driscoll accepted the check on behalf of the ALERTWildfire program, and stated:”Extreme temperatures, excessive drought, dry fuels, and high winds have created a more fire-prone landscape with a dramatic increase in the number and magnitude of explosive wildfires. Early fire detection and suppression in the incipient phase to save lives, wildlife, habitats, property, and reduce CO2 emissions is ALERTWildfire’s mission.
Innovative new data funded by this effort will be employed by local and state fire agencies to direct better fuel management efforts in the off-season and allow our fire commanders to more effectively deploy firefighters and resources during peak fire activities.”
On behalf of the Orange County Fire Authority, a key regional partner of ALERTWildfire, OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy said, “Wildfire season is now year-round in California and we need to do everything we can to protect life and property. OCFA is grateful for Senator Min’s support of ALERTWildfire that can help us proactively spot and stop fast moving wildfires here in Orange County.”
Managing Business Director for Business Resiliency Don Daigler, representing Southern California Edison, another regional partner of ALERTWildfire, stated, “The ALERTWildfire program will enhance wildfire preparedness and response capabilities to help keep our communities safe, and will enhance the partnership between our fire agencies, the state, UCSD and SCE. SCE is thankful for Senator Min’s advocacy for obtaining funding for this important program.”
This year is the third-driest water year on record according to the Department of Water Resources. Additionally to date, California has had 6,810 wildfires, with 1,633,659 acres burned, according to CALFIRE data. Last fall, Orange County experienced the Silverado Fire, which burned 12,466 acres, impacting tens of thousands of residents with evacuation orders.