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Calif. city to get $1.9M in state funds for early wildfire detection units

A total of 30 units will monitor Rancho Cucamonga’s foothills


Photo/Rancho Cucamonga Fire District

Jordan B. Darling
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — Rancho Cucamonga has received $1.9 million from the state to install early wildfire detection units across the city’s northern border which backs into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Assemblymember Chris Holden presented the almost $2 million check to Rancho Cucamonga on Monday, Oct. 24, for the installation of 30 units to monitor the city’s foothills. The units are built by an Azusa-based Lindsey FireSense LLC.

Rancho Cucamonga will be the first city to deploy the units ahead of the 2023 fire season, which starts in late spring.

“We are honored to be the first city in the state of California to pilot this life-saving system,” Mayor L. Dennis Michael said.

According to Jack McCall, executive vice president of Lindsey FireSense, the units will be posted on the already existing power line structures along the city’s northern border and will be deployed sometime next year. There will be four to eight units posted per mile to get an unobstructed view of the foothills and the wildlands.

The units will use two types of sensors: A thermal detector will pick up on thermal signatures and optical cameras will be used to verify the information visually. The data will then be processed in the detection units and, if the information is consistent, an alarm will notify local firefighters. From start to finish, the process should take about two minutes, according to McCall.

McCall also said that the sensors will be able to detect fires as small as 5 feet by 5 feet up to 900 feet away, and smaller fires of about 3 feet by 3 feet up to 400 feet away.

“And the reason we use both types of sensors is we want to minimize the amount of false alarms,” McCall said. “We want, when there is an alarm, we want there to be a very very high probability that there is an actual fire.”

The units are meant to help fire officials strategize their approach to fire and contain a blaze before it gets out of hand.

The Rancho Cucamonga Fire District covers beyond the city’s boundaries. The department is responsible for protecting the North Etiwanda Preserve and the wildland borders in the Alta Loma and Etiwanda neighborhoods, as well as the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains that border the city.

The areas are classified as a very high hazard for wildfire, according to Deputy Chief of Operations Augie Beretta.

“This area is prone to high Santa Ana winds which can rapidly spread small wildfires,” Beretta said. “Early wildfire detection is critical as it will allow for resources to rapidly respond to wildfires in the early stages.”

In 2003, the Grand Prix fire burned for 15 days, stretching from northern Fontana to Claremont, burning nearly 70,000 acres and reaching the northern Etiwanda area.

A decade later, the Etiwanda Fire erupted in April 2014 northwest of the North Etiwanda Preserve, burning nearly 2,000 acres in the same area as the 2003 fire.

With the new system, McCall said, early warnings mean fire resources can be maximized and fires can be knocked down at earlier stages.

McCall said the units were initially developed in fall of 2019 and tested at the All Risk Training Center in Rancho Cucamonga in May of 2020.

The Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department helped the company test the pilot unit at the training center and then put the company in touch with the San Bernardino Fire Department for further testing at their facilities.

When the company approached the city for the initial deployment they were very enthusiastic, according to McCall.

“Here is somebody who is actively invested in the development of the technology so really it was the perfect fit,” said McCall.


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