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Live cameras across the Central Coast help firefighters spot wildfires in remote areas

PG&E wildfire camera.jpg
Posted at 6:15 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 00:34:08-05

Pacific Gas and Electric Company is growing its network of fire-watch cameras and weather stations in California, including on the Central Coast.

The cameras provide a bird's eye view of the terrain in high fire risk areas.

"We can see how fires are behaving and what weather conditions are affecting the areas where the cameras are located," explained Mark Mesesan, PG&E Spokesperson.

The utility company says that the fire cameras and weather stations are a result of increasing wildfire risks like high temperatures, extreme dryness, and high winds. It's also to prevent their equipment from starting wildfires in the future.

There are 26 alert wildfire cameras in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.

It's an invaluable high-tech tool, especially to those who fight the flames.

"We had a fire near Cal Poly last summer and we have a camera on our communications tower here at our emergency command center which is right across Highway 1," explained Adan Orozco, CAL FIRE San Luis Obispo Public Information Officer. "So the dispatchers were able to watch the whole incident unfold on camera."

The eagle-eye view allowed 911 call-takers to relay immediate, first-hand information to crews on the way.

"Tell the incoming resources which part of the campus the fire was on so we could respond to that area quicker," Orozco said.

In both counties, PG&E operates or has access to more than 80 weather stations to monitor temperature, humidity, and wind speed.

This was especially crucial in mid-January of this year for thousands of Central Coast residents.

"For example, Public Safety Power Shutoffs; shorter, smaller, and smarter for our customers," Mesesan said.

In 2020, PG&E installed 400 new weather stations and 216 HD cameras.

The technology is monitored at the utility company's Wildfire Safety Operations Center.

By the end of 2022, PG&E says it expects to have the ability to see in real-time roughly 90% of the high fire-risk areas it serves.

It's a useful innovation already proving to be beneficial when every second counts.

"If we see something suspicious like a plume of smoke, we can send a resource out there to check before it's even reported," Orozco said.

The utility company says four more weather stations are set to go up in San Luis Obispo County in the coming months.

As of right now, PG&E has 1,000 weather stations and 340 cameras in operation in California.

Click here to take a look at the real-time fire-watch cameras in our area.