3:00 | 14.02.2018
CENIC Recognizes Technology Projects to Combat California Wildfires

In recognition of work to bring advanced IT and telecommunications to
the fight to contain California wildfires, the WIFIRE, HPWREN, and
AlertTahoe projects have been selected as recipients of the CENIC 2018
Innovations in Networking Award for Experimental Applications.

Project leaders being recognized are Ilkay Altintas, San Diego
Supercomputer Center; John Graham, Qualcomm Institute, University of
California San Diego; Graham Kent, Nevada Seismological Laboratory,
University of Nevada, Reno; and Frank Vernon, Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, University of California San Diego (UCSD).

WIFIRE is a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project at UCSD
that has developed real-time and data-driven simulation, prediction, and
visualization of wildfire behavior. During this past year’s chaotic
fires of Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Diego, WIFIRE’s publicly
available fire map was viewed over 8 million times, while the WIFIRE
team was in close communication with fire response agencies and chiefs
from various fire departments (mainly from Los Angeles and San Diego).
WIFIRE provided predictive maps for the Thomas, Skirball, Creek, Rye,
and Lilac Fires in Southern California and monitored the first responder
radio channels and fire perimeter information to quickly create
simulations of the spread of specific wildfires.

The collection of this crucial data was made possible by the High
Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN), started in
2000 under NSF funding. HPWREN has built out high-speed wireless
networks in San Diego, Imperial, Orange, and Riverside Counties,
enabling hundreds of cameras and meteorological stations to stream
critically important data to servers connected with each other by the
CENIC backbone and providing wide-area wireless Internet access
throughout southernmost California. HPWREN’s remote sensor network
collects data from wildfire cameras, seismic networks, hydrological
sensors, oceanographic sensors, meteorological sensors, and coastal
radar and GPS, providing a groundbreaking wealth of information that is
shared via the CENIC network.

“As a constant user and monitor of the HPWREN site for many years, I
have enjoyed the evolutions that are taking place. The Whittier Fire
[monitoring Santa Ynez Peak live] really highlighted the value of the
system. I was glued to the camera that day as the fire climbed the
ridge. Great live camera work by your team! The PTZ cameras and KML data
are strong new assets,” said Dave Fleming, Lookout 23, Forest Fire
Lookout Association, San Diego.

Similarly, AlertTahoe has, over the past five years, provided discovery,
early warning, and monitoring for over 350 wildfires throughout the
Sierras and Nevada’s Great Basin, giving wildland firefighting managers
the essential time and information needed to move quickly and respond
effectively. This system of pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) fire cameras and
multi-hazard tracking includes time lapse footage on-demand, smoke
investigation, prescribed fire oversight, wildfire tracking, earthquake
early warning, and monitoring of extreme weather events.

“The safety of my firefighters and the communities they protect is my
priority, so having more information about a fire before we encounter it
is an added safety measure that benefits our first responders,” said San
Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Brian Fennessy. “Having access to a live view of
our highest-risk fire areas will greatly improve situational awareness,
our coordination with CAL FIRE, and allow for quicker response times,
better response strategies, and faster evacuation orders to ensure our
communities are better prepared in the face of a wildfire. During the
ignition of the Church Fire, I could watch the smoke on my phone – the
color, the direction – and immediately knew the resources that I needed
to deploy and the time they would be engaged. Furthermore, the crews
could watch how the fire progressed on their tablets as they approached
the fire, providing real-time situational awareness. These fire cameras
are a game changer.”

WIFIRE, headed by Ilkay Altintas, merges observations, such as satellite
imagery and real-time data from sensors in the field, with computational
techniques like signal processing, visualization, modeling, and data
assimilation, to monitor environmental conditions and predict where and
how fast a wildfire will spread. The project is funded as part of the
NSF Hazards SEES program, which enhances sustainability using advanced
technologies and new methods. Participants in WIFIRE include researchers
from the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), the California Institute
for Telecommunications and Information Technology’s (Calit2) Qualcomm
Institute, and the UCSD Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE)
department. Also participating in the project is the University of
Maryland’s Department of Fire Protection Engineering.

“Wildfires have become a major threat to both Northern and Southern
California. The WIFIRE, HPWREN, and AlertTahoe projects are now actively
collaborating with each other, the first-responder community, and CENIC
to give California new digital tools to reduce the wildfire danger,
including early detection/warning, situational awareness, predictive
simulations, and first-responder planning. Their pioneering results set
the stage for wildfire threat reduction via wireless extensions from any
CENIC-connected entity in California,” said Larry Smarr, Director of the
California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

While working at UCSD’s Scripps Institution for Oceanography, Graham
Kent was a strong collaborator on HPWREN. When he left to become a
professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, he founded AlertTahoe, a
fire camera system that uses a private, high-speed Internet microwave
communications system for real-time fire-spotting and monitoring.
AlertTahoe provides coverage of the Lake Tahoe Basin and surrounding
mountains, thousands of square miles of northern Nevada’s Great Basin,
and regions as far south as Bishop, California, in the eastern Sierra.

The networked fire cameras discovered seven wildland fires in the Tahoe
basin in AlertTahoe’s inaugural two-year deployment, and in 2017 alone
provided discovery, early intel, and/or monitoring of 207 others. The
HD/4K fire cameras are remotely controllable for tilt, pan, zoom, and,
for some new cameras, continuous rotation.

“The cameras are strategically sited to provide a landscape overview,”
said Paul Petersen, Fire Management Officer, Nevada Bureau of Land
Management. “All cameras are equipped with on-demand time-lapse
functions to allow playback throughout different time periods. This
allows dispatchers and duty officers to play back the camera feed to
detect anomalies and gather a local picture of what is happening, and
has happened, within the field of view of the camera. This camera
network gives fire managers a real-time picture of what is happening
from both a weather and fire behavior standpoint. We have almost 500
people looking at the public site at various times, and 12 duty officers
and dispatchers have access to the cameras for tactical fire response

In 2017, AlertTahoe experimented with machine-vision auto-detect
software, which is designed to automatically detect and report smoke. In
2018, Kent and co-founder Ken Smith will join forces with Doug Toomey at
the University of Oregon to expand the system into Oregon and Idaho.
Similar efforts with Neal Driscoll at UCSD are focused in the San
Francisco Bay Area and Napa regions.

“The resources provided for our first responders and the public have
made possible swift, effective fire-fighting and evacuation strategies,
and potentially saved countless lives,” said Louis Fox, President and
CEO of CENIC. “The impact that these projects have made in keeping
Californians, our communities, and our natural resources safe from
wildfires is profound. The projects we are recognizing with this award
have highlighted the usefulness and value of wireless extensions of the
CENIC fiber network and set the stage for continued support and scaling
up of these and other, related wireless initiatives.”

The CENIC Innovations in Networking Awards are presented each year at
CENIC’s annual conference to highlight the exemplary innovations that
leverage ultra-high bandwidth networking, particularly where those
innovations have the potential to transform the ways in which
instruction and research are conducted or where they further the
deployment of broadband in underserved areas. The CENIC conference will
be held March 5 – 7, 2018, in Monterey, California.
About CENIC:
CENIC connects California to the world—advancing education and research
statewide by providing the world-class network essential for innovation,
collaboration, and economic growth. This nonprofit organization operates
the California Research and Education Network (CalREN), a high-capacity
network designed to meet the unique requirements of over 20 million
users, including the vast majority of K-20 students together with
educators, researchers and individuals at other vital public-serving
institutions. CENIC’s Charter Associates are part of the world’s largest
education system; they include the California K-12 system, California
Community Colleges, the California State University system, California’s
public libraries, the University of California system, Stanford,
Caltech, the Naval Postgraduate School, and USC. CENIC also provides
connectivity to leading-edge institutions and industry research
organizations around the world, serving the public as a catalyst for a
vibrant California.
WIFIRE is an NSF-funded project at UC San Diego that has developed
real-time and data-driven simulation, prediction, and visualization of
wildfire behavior.
The High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN)
has built out high-speed wireless networks in San Diego, Imperial,
Orange, and Riverside Counties, enabling hundreds of cameras and
meteorological stations to stream critically important data to servers
connected with each other by the CENIC backbone.
About AlertTahoe:
AlertTahoe is a fire camera and multi-hazard tracking system that
includes smoke investigation, prescribed fire oversight, wildfire
tracking, Earthquake Early Warning, and monitoring of extreme weather
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