“With our Wildland Urban Interface that we have here in Northern California,” stated Shawn Avery, initiative lead at the Redding Electric Utility (REU), “it’s essential that we have eyes in the sky looking out for fires during our elongated fire seasons.”
A collaboration among City departments, including IT, fire and the REU, as well as private partners, such as Climatec, Redding’s IQ Fire Watch cameras recognize early signs of wildfires through an innovative application of artificial intelligence for smoke detection. The cameras run morning and night across Redding and surrounding areas, providing a detection range of up to 40 miles in clear conditions, which is superior to comparable technology on the market. The cameras differentiate types of smoke by combining advanced sensors and software. Once the system detects smoke, it automatically sounds off alarms and alerts staff, triggering efforts to hedge against the wildfires, and ultimately, protect the entire community.
A recent study from the University of California, Davis found that wildfire smoke may have a larger impact on public health than originally thought, particularly in children. While wildfire smoke contributes to air pollution that could impact respiratory function, the new study, conducted on monkeys that were exposed to wildfires in 2008, finds that early smoke exposure may also impact immune response and neural development over time. As UC Davis conducts follow-up studies to further understand the long term consequences of smoke exposure on pregnant women and children, mitigating the ignition and spread of wildfires is critical.
Utility infrastructure continues to be a primary cause of wildfires in California. The State and California Public Utilities Commission continue making concerted efforts to prevent wildfires with bills, such as SB 901, which requires electric utilities to take steps to adequately maintain their equipment and safeguard the communities they serve.
REU built IQ Fire Watch cameras into its 2022 Wildfire Mitigation Plan to save lives and protect property in the face of wildfire events. With the cameras in place, Redding can also keep the REU’s critical utility services online in confidence all year, including on high fire risk days.
Dan Beans, REU’s initiative lead, discovered IQ Fire Watch at a conference and used his relationship with Climatec, a turnkey infrastructure solutions provider approved for purchasing and implementing IQ Fire Watch cameras, to secure the technology. He added: “For this community, public safety is the number one issue, and as an electric utility, we have to contribute to that in a positive way. We don’t want to be the ones creating public safety issues, we want to be the ones solving public safety issues.”