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Morgan Hill
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January 30, 2023

County approves wildfire protection drones

Supervisors allot $250K to program

In an effort to address California’s growing problems with wildfires, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted Sept. 13 to allocate more funds for fire resources, including a drone fire detection program.  

Supervisors unanimously approved a referral that funds 14 drone systems to be used for fire detection and suppression efforts for the county’s Central Fire Protection District, in addition to a one-time allotment of $250,000. The referral was authored by Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Otto Lee. 

The hope is for the drones to quickly identify source areas of fires, weak spots in burning buildings and safety hazards via thermal imaging.  

“Here in Santa Clara County we must act now to ensure that the Central Fire District has the tools necessary to do the necessary preventative work, and the ability to use technology to support their ongoing work,” Chavez said in a statement.  

Back in April 2022, Supervisor Joe Simitian requested the board to add on a fuel reduction crew in the fire district, along with an expansion on the district’s Pre-Fire Management and Wildfire Resilience program. Even more crew members working to clear out brush and vegetation reduces the risk of boisterous wildfires in the county’s future, said Simitian.  

“If we can bolster their efforts with resources like a drone to increase the department’s ability to detect and identify complex fires, upgrade our wildland engine driver training and adding additional Fuels Crew team members, that’s all to the good—for our firefighters and for the safety of our community,” Simitian said in a statement. 

Simitian said this approval couldn’t come at a better time, as the region faces a sweltering, prolonged heat wave that’s increased the risk of wildfires.  

“We have to keep pushing for the resources and support that will give County Fire the best possible chance of success when fighting fires,” said Simitian.  

The County Administration will face the board on Sept. 27 to discuss potential options for drones.  

On Dec. 6, the board will also hear recommendations on staff training and what crews need for preventative measures.  

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