Orange County Fire Authority Press Release on New FIRIS Critical Wildfire Intel Program and Increased Local Staffing During Extreme Red Flag Weather

The Orange County Fire Authority is now using the Fire Integrated Real Time Intelligence System (FIRIS), a 150-day pilot program funded with $4.5 million from a state grant secured by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.

Below is an OCFA Press Release detailing deployment of FIRIS and increased staff during the current extreme Red Flag Warning period.

NEW FIRIS PROGRAM PROVIDING

CRITICAL WILDFIRE INTEL

And OCFA Supports Neighboring Fires While Maintain Increased Local Staffing

Irvine, CA – October 29, 2019 – Since being launched nearly two months ago, the new Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS) pilot program aircraft has flown more than a dozen missions and provided enhanced situational awareness to numerous fire agencies. Knowing the fire perimeter and the direction a wind-driven fire is moving has helped decision-makers on the ground determine where to put resources and more importantly which communities to evacuate.

The FIRIS program is fast becoming one of the first air resources requested by Southern California fire agencies when a wildfire breaks out. The ability of the fixed-wing aircraft, equipped with cameras and infrared and radar sensors that can see through smoke, to provide real-time fire perimeter mapping and live high definition video has made a positive difference for incident commanders and decision-makers located in local Command Centers. Data sent from the twin-engine fixed-wing aircraft has also supported the UC San Diego WIFIRE Laboratory that uses its supercomputer to provide a fire spread progression model to be shared with the incident and command center staff.

A partial list of wildfires assisted by FIRIS include: Tenaja –RRU, Ortega-ORC, Palisades-LAF, SaddleRidgeLAF/LAC, Tick, Old, ValVerde-LAC, Kincade-LNU and Getty-LAF.

In addition to the high tech tools being used by the FIRIS pilot program aircraft, Orange County Fire Authority has been supporting its neighbors in Los Angeles with boots on the ground. Currently, four OCFA strike teams are assisting with the Getty Fire. More than 80 firefighters assigned to ten Type 3 brush rigs, and ten Type 1 fire engines are helping to contain the blaze. In addition, the Southern California Edison (SCE) funded night-time hover-filling helitanker and reconnaissance helicopter are also providing support to the Getty Fire. Two of strike teams had previously been assigned to the Tick Fire with the additional two responding upon immediate request of Los Angeles Fire Department.

Neighboring Fires While Maintain Increased Local Staffing

More than a dozen firefighters of various levels, from Division Chief to firefighter, are also providing management and logistics support at the Tick and Kinkade fires.

“Nothing will replace the need for firefighters on the ground battling out of control wildfires. And I appreciate what our men and women do every day,” said Orange County Fire Authority Fire Chief Brian Fennessy. “I am also thankful that through collaboration, the FIRIS technology is helping to make a difference in decision-making which ultimately leads to suppressing wildfires more quickly.”

With critical fire weather predicted through the week, OCFA continues to have increased staffing in order to quickly respond to any wildfire that breaks out in our service territory. More than 100 additional firefighters are ready to respond in a moment’s notice. They’re staffing the following:

  • 10 – Type 1 Fire Engines
  • 5 – Type 3 Brush Rigs
  • 2 – Dozers
  • 3 – Helicopters
  • 2 – Hand Crews
  • 5 – Type 6 Patrols

The community is asked to remain diligent during this critical fire weather. If the wind is blowing, refrain from yard work with motorized equipment, never drive or park on dry grass, and throw cigarettes or other smoking materials properly in containers. For my tips, please visit OCFA.org/rsg.

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Fire Station Open House: Meet Your Orange County Firefighters on Sat., Oct. 12!

As a member of the Board of Directors of the Orange County Fire Authority, I’d like to invite you to meet your local Orange County Firefighters!

Designated OCFA Fire Stations will be hosting Open Houses for the public from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturday, October 12, 2019.

Here’s the list of participating OCFA Fire Stations:

OCFA’s station Open Houses will give visitors an opportunity to meet and greet their neighborhood firefighters, tour their local fire stations, and hear about ways they can stay fire safe.

It will also be a great opportunity to thank your firefighters for their everyday heroism and tell them that you appreciate their bravery and professionalism!

This is very much a family-friendly event!

Bring a new unwrapped toy for those in need and win a chance for a fire station tour and an invitation to an ice cream social!

Watch Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy on Leadership: “Building a Mission-Driven Culture”

One of the accomplishments I’m most proud of as a public official is advocating as a member of the board of directors of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) for the selection of Brian Fennessy as our new Fire Chief.

OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy is one of the nation’s most respected leaders in the crucial field of emergency management.

Recently, Fire Chief Fennessy was invited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to present his perspective on emergency management leadership to a national audience.

In his talk, titled “Building a Mission-Driven Culture,” Chief Fennessy shares the values of a mission-driven culture and the importance of intent-based leadership in emergency management.

Chief Fennessy also discusses his path to leadership and why he firmly believes that a mission-driven culture is critical to organizational success in times of chaos and during daily operations.

All of us involved in emergency response and management — first responders, public officials, citizen volunteers — will benefit from the wisdom and experience of OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy in this extremely timely talk.

Watch Chief Fennessy’s FEMA PrepTalk “Building a Mission-Driven Culture” here:

Meet “Captain Cal” — CAL FIRE’s New Ambassador for Fire Safety and Prevention!

I had the opportunity yesterday in Sacramento to attend the introduction of “Captain Cal” — CAL FIRE’s Fire’s new ambassador for fire safety and prevention — to the people of California.

Chief Thom Porter, the Director of California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, announced that Captain Cal’s primary mission is to help expand CAL FIRE’s educational outreach and to teach children about emergency preparedness, fire safety and prevention, safe and sane fireworks, and water safety.

Assemblymember Christy Smith, Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, pointed out that Californians need to be prepared for the “new normal” of a year-round California fire season.

Climate change, couple with population growth, has drastically increased the frequency, severity and destructiveness of wildfires. Ten of the 20 most destructive fires in California history have occurred since 2015.

In 2018 alone, more than 2 million acres of California’s forests burned. The combination of many years of drought followed by recent heavy rains means that we should expect more severe fires again this year.

Under Governor Gavin Newsom and Chief Porter, the State of California is significantly increasing it’s commitment to wildfire prevention and response, as well as education, in the face of these new conditions.

Captain Cal’s motto is “Safety starts with you!”

You can find out more about Captain Cal and fire safety at www.readyforwildfire.org.

 

 

June is PTSD Awareness Month: Tell Your State Legislators to Support PTDS Care for Police and Firefighters!

June is PTSD Awareness Month.

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is a condition that impacts many military veterans and first responders, such as police and firefighters.

PTSD can occur when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.  This condition wasn’t always understood properly by the medical or military community. “Shell shock” and “battle fatigue” or “combat fatigue” were earlier attempts to define and understand the symptoms of PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and those who suffer from it were often maligned and stigmatized in popular culture after the Vietnam War, and many films and television shows featured antagonists or unsympathetic characters suffering from “Vietnam flashbacks” or other post-combat issues.

This misunderstanding of PTSD slowly began to change in 1980 when it was recognized as a specific condition with identifiable symptoms. As a result, since that time Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Today, the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are better understood, treatable, and recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a service-connected condition.

Now we are recognizing that because of the nature of their jobs, police and firefighters, like military combat veterans, are routinely exposed to traumatic events that can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For this reason, police and firefighters are twice as likely as the general population to experience PTSD.

Currently, however, it is often difficult for police and firefighters in California to receive the treatment that they need and deserve.

New legislation — SB 542 — would provide that in the case of certain state and local firefighting personnel and peace officers, the term “injury” also includes a mental health condition or mental disability that results in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress or mental health disorder that develops or manifests itself during a period in which the firefighter or peace officer is in the service of the department or unit.

This new legislation recognizes that “Today, a firefighter’s and law enforcement officer’s occupational stress is heightened in the face of California’s ‘new normal’ in which wildland and wildland-urban interface fires continue to annually increase as hot, dry, and wind-whipped conditions persist” and that “Last year’s fire storms were a brutal reminder of the ferocity of wildfires and how all too often on-duty firefighters and law enforcement officers incur the stress of witnessing victims flee while worrying about whether their own homes, and the safety of their families and neighbors, are threatened. When on duty, firefighters and law enforcement officers endure the added pain of driving through wreckage, seeing destroyed homes, or worse, the skeletal remains of family, friends, and neighbors burned to ash while not being able to stop to provide assistance or comfort.”

The legislation further recognizes that “While the cumulative impacts of these aggressive, deadly events are taking their toll, our firefighters and law enforcement officers continue to stand up to human-caused devastation and nature’s fury, but they are physically and emotionally exhausted” and that “California has a responsibility to ensure that its fire and law enforcement agencies are equipped with the tools necessary to assist their personnel in mitigating the occupational stress experienced as a result of performing their job duties and protecting the public.”

For these reasons, the intent of the legislation to “recogniz[e] the hazards and resulting trauma of these occupations and provide treatment and support for these public servants through presumptive care to our firefighters and law enforcement officers.”

As the daughter of a police officer and the mother of a firefighter, I strongly support SB 542 and it’s goal of providing treatment for police and firefighters suffering from service-related PTSD.

I urge everyone in California to contact their representatives in both the State Senate and the State Assembly to urge them to Vote Yes on SB 542!

Wildfire Preparedness Week: Wildfire is Coming . . . Are You Ready?

As CAL FIRE, reminds us, Wildfire is coming . . . Are you ready?

This is Wildfire Preparedness Week.

Each year California highlights the importance of wildfire prevention and preparedness by declaring the first full week of May as “Wildfire Preparedness Week.”

This year during the week of May 5-11, CAL FIRE, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) and fire departments across the state will remind residents of the dangers posed by wildfires and the simple steps that should be followed to prepare for and prevent them.

Despite getting some much-needed rain this winter, we’re expecting another dangerous fire season.

You can learn more about wildfire prevention at OCFA’s press conference on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. at Station 41, located at Fullerton Airport.  For more information, contact OCFA PIO at 714-357-7782.

One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire!

Approximately 95 percent of all wildfires are sparked by the activity of people, which means that almost all wildfires are preventable.

One of the leading causes of wildfires is outdoor powered equipment. Use powered equipment before 10 a.m. and never on hot and windy days. When clearing dead or dying grass don’t use a lawn mower or weed trimmer with a metal blade.

Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained with nothing dragging on the ground like trailer chains. All residents and vacationers need to be extra cautious outdoors because one less spark means one less wildfire.

Learn more by clicking here

Ready, Set, Go! 

With fire activity already above average, Californians should remember “Ready, Set, Go!

Ready: Protect your home ahead of time by taking steps to mitigate wildfire risk.

Set: Prepare for an emergency by assembling a bag of important items that you would need in the event of emergency. This includes clothes, medication and other personal items. Develop a family emergency plan that details escape routes and reunification plans.

Go: Leave early in the event of an emergency. Avoid traffic congestion and other complications by evacuating at the earliest opportunity. In the event of evacuation, all City of Irvine emergency shelters will have options available for pets.

Learn more by clicking here.

Be Prepared and Take Action!

As climate changes, and as home-building expands ever closer to more areas subject to wildfire, the danger to our lives and property increases.

Watch an OCFA video on wildfire preparedness by clicking here.

Please learn what you should do to help our firefighters keep your family safe!

 

Operation “Southern Wind” — Our First Responders Train for a “Dirty Bomb” Terrorist Attack

This week, as a board member of the Orange County Fire Authority, I had the amazing opportunity to observe the 2019 Urban Search and Rescue Multi-Task Force Mobilization Exercise “Southern Wind” at the Del Valle Regional Training Center in Castaic, California, in which our first responders trained to deal with a “dirty bomb” terrorist attack.

The scenario was that a vehicle containing a “dirty bomb” had exploded, spreading radioactive contamination and toxic smoke across a wide area and demolishing a mall and a hospital, with many fatalities and injured victims, as well as many people trapped in the rubble.

The participating agencies included the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), Cal Trans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Branch, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), California US&R Task Force 5 (CA-TF5) from OCFA, California US&R Task Force 6 (CA-TF6) from the Riverside Fire Department, California US&R Task Force 8 from the San Diego Fire Department, and the HazMat Task Force from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The goal of the exercise was to demonstrate the ability of Southern California-based local, state, and federal US&R Task Forces to meet FEMA Operational Readiness Exercise Evaluation Program requirements, and demonstrate Multi-Task Force cooperation in response to an incident involving a Radiological Dispersal Device.

The overall Incident Commander, and most of the section commanders, were with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Among the actions taken were decontamination and securing of the area, searching for victims (including using search dogs), and extraction of victims from the rubble (including using cranes to lift debris and motor vehicles).

Due to the danger of exposure to radiation, the crews needed to rotate frequently.

My very helpful and patient “guide” during the exercise was OCFA US&R Coordinator Captain Richard Ventura.

Also taking time to keep me informed was OCFA Captain Wendy Norwood, whose normal duty station is OCFA Fire Station 27 in Portola Springs.

I was tremendously impressed by the smoothness and thoroughness of the operation, the coordination and cooperation among the different agencies, the amazing level of skills demonstrated, and the dedication of all the participants.

I was also extremely proud of the leadership role taken by our own Orange County Fire Authority.

Thank you to all our dedicated first responders for continually training to keep us safe!

Here are some more of the photos and videos I took during the exercise: