Pilot Program in Oakland Looks to Help Detect Wildfires Before They Become Threats

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The city of Oakland is trying out a new tool to help detect wildfires before they become a threat.

The fire chief joined city leaders and community members Thursday to announce a pilot program that will test out realtime fire monitoring sensors.

There are 10 sensors placed in critical areas in Oakland that will monitor air quality and can detect a fire up to 2 miles away, then notify firefighters.

“Ten air quality sensors will be installed throughout the wildland urban interface area of the city of Oakland. These sensors will continually sample air quality. Once again, no audio, no visual sensors,” said Oakland Fire Department Chief Reginald Freeman.

This pilot is in partnership with the technology company N5 sensors.  

“They’re gas and particulate sensors, chemical sensors, and heat sensors and they work in conjunction with artificial intelligence to identify when a fire has been lit and we can give an immediate notification, 24/7 completely unattended operation to the dispatch center letting them know of a fire,” said Debra Deininger of N5 Sensors.

Some neighbors who lost homes in the Oakland Hills firestorms in 1991, like Carolyn Burgess, were at the announcement to hear about the technology.

“I lost everything. I lost my neighborhood, as far as you could see, was gone,” she said. “It’s great I can not tell you what it's like in the middle of summer and the wind is blowing. I wake up and I walk around and look out the windows of my newly-built, not newly-built now, but rebuilt home and look and see if there is anything. Any fire, any smoke and so this will give us a little more peacefulness.”

The pilot program is expected to run for 24 months.

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