Southern California Edison Installs Fire Watch Cameras

In an effort to increase their wildfire mitigation program, Southern California Edison has installed 78 cameras in high fire-risk areas that can be monitored around the clock and has plans to increase that number to 160 by the end of 2020.

There are two cameras already installed in Crestline along Playground Drive. 

“Two (cameras) will be installed in the San Bernardino Mountain region, located near Crestline and the Inland Empire by the end of this week,” said Reggie Kumar, Safety Advisor for SCE. “We hope to install more cameras on at least seven to 10 additional towers in this area which may include Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.”

The cameras are able to pan, tilt, zoom and perform 360-degree sweeps approximately every minute with 12 high-definition frames per sweep, Kumar said in a letter on Feb. 26.

SCE’s fire management organization and other public agencies can access the camera 24/7 to monitor wildfire activity.

Don Daigler, SCE director of business resiliency, helps oversee operations during major incidents, such as wildfires, severe storms and earthquakes.

“We actually create a relationship with (the fire department) through our Fire Management offices,” Daigler said. “We give them the software so they can get in and move the camera around. They wouldn’t necessarily need us to manage it for them, they can manage it themselves.”

Daigler said he has three wildfire managers who were previously firefighters and SCE linemen who have fostered a close relationship with the fire communities throughout the years.

“When we go into a fire event, whether it has anything to do with us starting it or not … I deploy those folks to the fire incident command post,” Daigler said.

Their role is to provide advice and counsel to the firefighters over electrical and safety issues, Daigler added.

Daigler also said that SCE will have up to 100 cameras installed by the end of April and 160 cameras installed by the end of this year, which will mean 90% coverage in high fire risk areas.

“Before the cameras, we relied on reports from fire agencies and the media, as well as on scene observations by our crews to address wildfire activity in our service area,” Daigler added in the letter. “The fire-monitoring cameras provide real-time images that we can rely on to protect our customers, communities and equipment from the ongoing threat of wildfires.”

The technology will enhance the SCE’s situational awareness and give fire agencies the ability to respond to wildfire activity more quickly, Kumar said in the letter.

Daigler said most, if not all, of the cameras are installed on pre-existing structures, which means no additional construction or impact on the environment is necessary.

Christian Shepherd can be reached at cshepherd@mountain-news.com.