San Diego County officials are touting a high-speed broadband network that's making it easier to fight wildfires in the East County mountains.
The high-speed computer web expanded dramatically in the past year. Mountain-top wireless connections tied 50 more fire stations into UC San Diego's high-speed network. The system puts state-of-the-art computing resources in the hands of public safety officials.
"It is for emergencies of all different kinds," saidSan Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts. "This establishes a platform for communications that we have never had. And it's going to give us that battlefield awareness, I guess, that we really need for these major emergencies."
With the high-speed data network at their disposal, firefighters can Skype, create wireless access points in the backcountry and even tap into San Diego Gas and Electric's extensive weather monitoring network.
"For me as a firefighting manager, I have access to those weather stations we've been hearing about. The robust weather coverage we have in the county allows me to make decisions on where I deploy resources, if I staff up in certain areas or staff up throughout the entire county for wildfire events," said Thom Porter, a Cal Fire chief.
The county hopes the system becomes a real asset if there's another large wildfire. Public safety officials said the region has taken major steps forward.
"We've come a long, long way since the fires of 2003 and 2007," Roberts said. "And we're not nearly done. We still have a lot to do."
Ten more fire stations will be plugged into the wireless high-speed network. The growing system will allow researchers to develop even more tools that will help deal with large-scale disasters in the backcountry, Roberts said.