New Wildfire Cameras Detect Fires on Santa Barbara Front Country
By the Montecito Fire Department
A wildfire detection camera is now installed on Santa Barbara’s TV Hill, providing coverage of the Santa Barbara front country. The ALERT Wildfire camera is part of a growing network for cameras across the western United States that help local, state and federal agencies watch for wildfires.
Technicians with ALERT Wildfire traveled to the South Coast Monday to install the camera on KEYT Newschannel’s property. The local television news station’s patio provides an unobstructed, panoramic view of the Santa Barbara front country, including Montecito’s wildland areas.
Wildfire detection cameras (courtesy photo)
The camera provides 24/7 “eyes” on the fire-prone hillsides and eventually, will alert firefighters to new fire starts using artificial intelligence technology. The camera views are also publicly available so that community members can gain a better understanding of where a fire is burning. The TV Hill camera can be viewed at this link: https://alertca.live/cam-console/2749
The camera on TV Hill and plans for another on Ortega Ridge in Montecito will join a network of hundreds of cameras that provide coverage of wildland areas. There are two existing cameras on Gibraltar Peak.
“Thanks to these cameras, it’s now rare that we respond to a fire without having eyes on it before we respond,” Montecito Wildland Fire Specialist Nic Elmquist said. “Until now, we had limited coverage of the South Coast’s wildland areas. It’s a huge advantage to be able to watch an incident emerge from the first puff of smoke.”
ALERT Wildfire is a consortium of University of Nevada Reno, University of California San Diego and University of Oregon, providing access to state-of-the-art Pan-Tilt-Zoom fire cameras and associated tools to help firefighters and first responders:
1. Discover, locate and confirm fire ignition;
2. Quickly scale fire resources up or down appropriately;
3. Monitor fire behavior;
4. Help guide evacuation processes through enhanced situational awareness, and;
5. Monitor contained fires for flare-ups.
View of Santa Barbara's front country from the wildfire camera location (courtesy photo)
Montecito resident Wayne Siemens approached Montecito Fire Department in 2021 about the possibility of implementing more wildfire detection cameras on the South Coast.
“Generations of Montecitans will benefit from this exciting new plan,” Siemens said.
Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor brought Mr. Siemens’ suggestion to the Montecito Fire Board of Directors who allocated funding this year for the program. Montecito Fire’s Prevention Bureau staff, specifically Wildland Specialists Nic Elmquist and Maeve Juarez, brought the idea to fruition alongside our partners at Santa Barbara City Fire Department.
“Community collaboration has been at the core of this project since our first conversation with Wayne,” Chief Taylor said. “None of it would be possible without the teamwork and support from Wayne, Santa Barbara City Fire and KEYT.”
Twenty thousand dollars have been allocated from the Montecito Fire Protection District’s general fund for the cameras.
An ALERT Wildfire camera will be installed near the Ortega Ridge reservoir in early 2023. Firefighters are currently looking for more locations to install cameras.
“A network of ALERT Wildfire cameras on the Santa Barbara front country will provide real-time monitoring of fires at their inception and reduce risk to our community members in the first 24 hours of a large-scale, wind-driven wildfire with evacuations,” Chief Taylor said.
For more information about ALERT Wildfire, visit www.alertwildfire.org and https://alertca.live/. For media questions and requests, please contact Montecito Fire Public Information Officer Christina Favuzzi at 805-680-5526 or email@example.com.