California Wildfires Networked

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Wikipedia overviews the California wildfires of October 2007. The city of San Diego is using a reverse 911 system to get the word out while dozens of Social Media Networks are tracking the California Fires. San Diego residents Nate Ritter and Dan Tentler have been busy posting rapid-fire updates to Twitter as they gather information from friends and roam the streets to offer first-hand reports. Search Engine Land, Maps the Southern California fires.

The Wireless Foundation and the American Red Cross today announced that wireless subscribers can make a charitable donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund by utilizing the Text 2HELP program. Subscribers of participating wireless carriers can donate $5 to relief efforts simply by text messaging keyword “GIVE” to “2HELP” (24357). In response to the Southern California wildfires, T-Mobile USA is offering free Wi-Fi Internet service through Oct. 31 at nearly 1,200 T-Mobile HotSpot locations in Southern California.

Planes and helicopters equipped with infrared sensors, record ground data that crews with laptops and GPS devices use to track wildfire movement, reports CNN.

General Atomics’s Predator B unmanned aircraft, christened “Ikhana” by NASA (which means intelligent in Choctaw), flew over the fires in San Diego County to determine the direction of the flames. It sent thermal-infrared imagery to scientists for layering over Google Earth (photos).

Not to be outdone, Northrop Gruman’s Global Hawk (right), was also drafted to spy on the Southern California fires. It flies about 13 miles above the ground and is controlled by pilots on the ground at Beale Air Force Base in Northern California. The pilots conducting the fire missions are the same group responsible for remotely flying the Global Hawk over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Images are transmitted via satellite back to imagery analysts at the 548th Intelligence Group at Beale, to the Distributed Common Ground Station (DCGS-2) where intelligence from the U-2, Predator and Global Hawk are collected, analyzed and coordinated. The DCGS was designed as a mobile grouping of trailers, though they generally stay at Beale. 60 Minutes toured a Global Hawk command center.

As of October 24, 16 active fires were burning in the region, resulting in eight people dead and at least 70 others injured.

UCSD’s High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) is a NSF funded network research program. Since 2003, HPWREN has been involved with networking Incident Command Posts using WiFi to aid firefighting efforts for large wildland fires.

The southern loop of the HPWREN backbone was replaced just last week with an FCC-licensed path from coastal area to Mt. Laguna. Previously HPWREN used a license-exempt 5.8GHz link which was subject to unplanned outages caused by radio issues and interference. A wireless camera and weather station was also installed. HPWREN sensor data can be used for setting off real-time alarms for firefighters.

HPWREN has tested solar powered radio repeaters (left) using a 60 Watt solar array charging a 100 Ah battery, to support 5 watt radios (drawing 400 mA at 12 V DC), IQeye high rez video cameras and weather instrumentation with a Vaisala WXT510 Weather Transmitter. Weather alerts are automatically triggered if they meet a combination of factors, and emailed to pagers and cellphones, re-issued as daily reminders every morning at 7AM, if the condition persists.

A pod built out of 8″ diameter PVC, about 40″ long holds the battery bay with two 25Ah 12 V DC sealed batteries. The middle section of the pod houses a Campbell Scientific CR510 datalogger alongside a 4 Amperes battery charge controller. The top houses a detachable steel mast that serves as a mount for a 20 watt solar panel, planar array antenna and weather instrumentation.

Earlier this year, HPWREN provided network connectivity to a CalFire Command Van (below), located at the an Incident Command Post using a microwave link from HPWREN’s backbone.

Here are current interoperable radio frequencies for first responders. A WiMAXed sensor network would enable broadband communications, save money and lives for the U.S. Forest Service and others. But hey, we’ve been harping on that topic long enough to suspect that another billion dollars will go up in smoke before there’s any action by bureaucrats.

The wildfires began burning across Southern California on October 20, forcing the evacuation of approximately 900,000 residents. Around 500,000 acres (2,000 km²) of land have burned from Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border. CNN, News8, SignOnSanDiego and Wikipedia have more on the toll.

Datasets on the location of structures, demographics and hazard data can be overlaid on Evacuation Area Maps.

Sensoria has a WiFi mesh router for first responders that has been deployed by front-line US infantry in Afghanistan. It supports a variety of wireless radios, and uses a proprietary mesh networking stack that supports voice, video, and other high-bandwidth signals, forming self-configuring, self-healing ad hoc wireless mesh WiFi network using 802.11g, 802.15.4, 802.16, and 4.9GHz-band radios.

The EnRoute500 dual radio outdoor wireless mesh router was acquired by Tranzeo Wireless in a transaction that closed February 1, 2007. Tranzeo has a 3.5 GHz mini-PCI WiMAX card and a 5.8 GHz mini-PCI WiMAX card, for the unlicensed WiMAX connections. Its outdoor subscriber units for the 5.8GHz band come with 16dBi, 20dBi, or 24dBi antenna options, while its indoor version comes with an integrated 12dBi antenna.

Saxnet’s new Meshnode, the Meshnode III, increases WiFi transmit power to 600mW and features a self-organizing four-radio transmission system. You can choose from more than 19,000 linux software packages because of the use of two compact-flash-memory cards with a maximum space of 16GB per module. Wireless mesh networks such as Meshnode III, the Meraki Mini, as well as the One Laptop per Child XO system, enable users of the devices to quickly create daisy-chain networks in areas lacking infrastructure.

ArrowSpan has a 900 MHz backbone in its MeshAP 3100. It uses a dedicated 802.11b/g radio for client connection and dual 900 MHz radios for backhaul and is designed for camp sites, RV parks, city parks and campuses, where heavy foliage may interfere with wireless coverage. Node-to-node distances up to a mile in open space, are claimed.

Tools like TwitterVision and TwitterMap show you where people are messaging from, but there hasn’t been an easy way to subscribe to Tweets coming from a certain area…until now. TwitterWhere lets you generate an RSS or XML Feed to filter out Tweets around a certain area. The Google News Application for Facebook enables users to create custom news feeds. Companies like Widsets, Bluepulse, mFoundry, Bling, Opera, Google and Yahoo have widgets that run on PDAs, cellphones and tablets.

Parts of Oregon at greatest risk of fire — the outskirts of Bend, Ashland and Hood River — are among its fastest growing, reports the Oregonian. And much of the growth, like that in California and the rest of the West, is in the wildland-urban “interface” most prone to destructive blazes.

The Oregon Department of Forestry fire program director Bill Lafferty, says roughly 450,000 acres in Oregon and Washington have been scorched annually in the past five years. Oregon spends 1.2 million dollars a day fighting fires.

The 2002 fire season was one of the biggest of the past half-century. Fire burned 7.2 million acres, costing over $1 billion to fight. The Biscuit Fire alone burned nearly 500,000 acres in the states of Oregon and California and cost $153 million to fight. Excluding costs of burned timber, property and insurance.

Next year, firefighting is expected to burn up nearly half the U.S. Forest Service’s budget, some $4.13 billion. That percentage is up from 13 percent in 1991. Could the Forest Service save money with a broadband network?

A 2.5GHz/700MHz Mobile WiMAX network contracted through Clearwire/Frontline, for example, might provide heads-up displays for firefighters. An “anchor tenant” contract would be cheap insurance if early detection saved money and lives. A safe bet.

Related DailyWireless articles include; Topoff 4 Begins in Portland, The OTHER Public Safety Band, Belair: Firefighter, Chicago Firefighters Handheld, FCC: Limited Open Access, No Wholesale Requirement for 700 MHz, Solar Powered WiMAX & WiFi, The Infinite Zoom, Microsoft’s 3D Photo Flyby, Microsoft’s Amazing Virtual Earth, Microsoft Buys Vexcel, Mapping Goes Live, Vessel Monitoring, Border Surveillence, Gigapixel Imaging, Traffic Radio Goes HD, Earthquake First Responders, WiFi On Fire, On Mt. Saint Helens, Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network, 700MHZ Goes Live, Seattle To Portland Wi-Fi Proposal, Mountain Rescue UAVs, E911 & Triangulation, Cellular Triangulation, VoIP Gets 911 Extension,, VoIP E-911 Rush?, 211, 311, 411, 511 & 911, Tracking Individuals, Location, location, location,

Posted by Sam Churchill on Monday, October 22nd, 2007 at 8:17 pm .

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