Lake Sonoma Watershed Fire Camera Pilot Project Approved by Sonoma County Supervisors


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Santa Rosa, CA – The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors today approved funding for a network of fire cameras that will provide early detection of wildfires in the Lake Sonoma Watershed, an effort aimed at protecting the drinking water supply for more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties and providing firefighters with greater awareness of a fire’s severity, where it is spreading and how quickly it is growing. The Lake Sonoma Fire Camera Project is anticipated to be the first phase of a larger, regional network of fire cameras.

Initially there will be eight high-definition web cameras installed at locations in the north county region and most of the sites will take advantage of existing communications towers or infrastructure. Officials hope to expand the system to include a five-county regional network that includes Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino counties.

Primary funding for the Lake Sonoma Watershed Fire Camera Pilot Project will come from the Sonoma County Water Agency (Sonoma Water), which will contribute $477,037 to have the system of cameras installed, maintained and operated for the first year. The project is a collaboration among numerous agencies, including Sonoma Water, Sonoma County Fire and Emergency Services, Sheriff’s Office, County Information Services Department, County General Services Department, Pepperwood Preserve, Fairfield Osborn Preserve, Sonoma State University, The Regents of the University of California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (U.C. San Diego), and the AlertWildfire consortium of universities.

“These cameras will provide us with early fire detection and a level of situational awareness that is critical as we adapt to new wildfire behavior,” said Sonoma Water Director and Board of Supervisors Chair James Gore. “We learned a painful lesson last October about what these extreme weather events can produce in terms of wildfires and we’re seeing already this year that it is the new normal. This is an exciting project and I look forward to building on this effort and developing a regional network.”

The state-of-the-art system uses near-infrared technology for night vision, and allows fire officials to take control of the fire cameras during wildfire emergencies to monitor fire and weather activity. Cameras will be located on mountain tops and high-visibility locations that allow the cameras to locate fire ignition spots by using triangulation.

“The Sonoma County Fire Chiefs Association is in full support of the pilot fire camera project and is looking forward to assisting with its implementation,” said Jason Boaz, Healdsburg Fire Chief and Vice President of Sonoma County Fire Chiefs Association. “These fire detection cameras are a benefit to the entire community as they assist fire officials with early detection and location of wildfires.”

The system will be modeled after existing fire camera networks currently operating in the Lake Tahoe region, state of Nevada, and San Diego and Orange Counties. These systems have proven successful, having assisted in more than 350 fires in the past two years and used by fire managers with the US Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, CAL FIRE, and many local fire protection districts. Images from the cameras are posted publicly on the website,, where they are frequently updated and can be viewed as time lapses of varying lengths.

Each camera site will include a microwave tower that provides sufficient bandwidth to transmit the high-definition fire camera data. The recently upgraded Sonoma County Sheriff microwave communications network has enough bandwidth to support the Project and will incorporate some of the fire cameras at existing microwave tower sites. Final site selection for the Project’s eight camera locations (Attachment A) will be part of the implementation process. Utilizing these pre-existing sites will substantially reduce the cost of implementation.

REDCOM (countywide fire and emergency dispatch center) and CAL FIRE dispatch centers have agreed to add the fire camera operations to their dispatch center protocols and procedures. County Fire and Emergency Services is providing coordination assistance during the operational plan development. As 911 calls are received from the public reporting smoke and potential fires, the dispatch centers will be able to use the cameras to verify the fire, location and magnitude to determine the size and scale of response to dispatch. With the support of cooperating agencies and County departments, the Water Agency anticipates the Project to be installed and operational by the end of September 2018 to assist the Sonoma County public safety agencies during high wildfire danger.

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