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L.A. County is urged to use a satellite, cameras in forests to detect wildfires

Los Angeles County officials should consider using satellites or ground-based cameras installed in forests to detect wildfires soon after they begin, the county Board of Supervisors was told Tuesday.

Such technology could include camera equipment that would be analyzed by computers to detect smoke or flames and sound an alarm to a fire dispatcher, according to a report from the county’s Quality and Productivity Commission, whose members are appointed by the supervisors and William T Fujioka, the county’s chief executive.

Another promising option, according to the report, would be to use a military satellite that is designed to detect missile launches.

“Since a missile flame has characteristics similar to a wildland fire, the system can readily detect fires,” the report states.

Commissioners also proposed that officials evaluate a system that would electronically track the locations of fire engines to a dispatch computer system, making it easier to send the closest available engine to a fire.

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In addition to new technology, the report advised the county to create a task force for all fire agencies operating in L.A. County to hammer out a single agreement on how to fight wildfires.

“Specific agencies may have rules tailored for their mission that may not be beneficial for other agencies. For example, the Forest Service does not allow aerial suppression activities at night, whereas [the Los Angeles County Fire Department] will engage a fire at night using water-dropping helicopters,” the report states.

ron.lin@latimes.com


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