Military Mapping Technology Heads to Calif. Fire Lines

SAN DIEGO

The same technology the military uses to map strategies on the battlefield is being adapted for use by firefighters.

"Fighting a wildfire is like fighting a war," said County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who is a leading supporter of the Next Generation Incident Command System (NICS).

"We're taking battlefield technology and applying it to emergencies, and not just fires, but this can be used in a number of situations once it's in place," Roberts said.

During a fire in Dulzura last May, Cal Fire was able to direct aerial drops where they were most effective thanks to an infrared camera mounted on a Cal Fire spotter plane. The system was able to pinpoint the fire through thick smoke and the camera was controlled by someone on the ground.

The system is being developed in cooperation with Homeland Security, MIT Lincoln Lab near Boston, as well as through the county with help from San Diego Gas & Electric.

"This technology was a game changer for the military and it will have the same impact in this application," said Jack Thorpe, Ph.D., a retired Air Force colonel living in San Diego and a consultant with Lincoln Lab.

The basic system should be fully operation by mid-September.

"When a fire breaks out, we're going to be in far better shape than we've ever been in the past," Roberts said.

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