New technology aims to warn public of impending fire danger before it happens – Story

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– After some of the most devastating wildfires in recent history, some Southland utilities are taking drastic action to prevent another wildfire tragedy.

Tom Rolinski is the new guy at Southern California Edison. Ten months ago he was hired to be the company’s Fire Meteorologist as fire season continues getting longer and more difficult. 

Fires like the Thomas Fire, Woolsey and others have been huge challenges for firefighters. The Camp Fire up north was deadly and destructive. According to Cal Fire, statewide, about half of the acreage that has burned was due to utility company power equipment. That puts pressure on utility companies.

With his team, Rolinski is physically looking at things that could burn. He says it’s really important to understand the moisture levels.

“Here, with this material we have to cut pieces of this plant. We weigh it, and we dry it in an oven for about 20 hours, and then we weigh it again to determine how much moisture is in this plant,” said Rolinski​​​​​​.

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About 200 higher tech weather stations are scattered around potentially dangerous hillsides in Southern California. They have solar sensors, directional cellular antennas, solar sensors, sensors to measure temperature and relative humidity, wind monitors and data loggers. They send back data constantly to a command center for analyzing, and is available to the public.

Rolinski ​​​​​says they should be able to warn communities as much as three days before a fire danger might exist. There are also 100 high definition cameras scattered about, all of which the public can view at www.alertwildfire.org.

It’s all about safety, according to Rolinski. Safety from the monsters that these California wildfires have become.

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