Environmental Observations via Mountain-top Deployed Sensors - the Santiago Peak Holy Fire Example

August 12, 2018

In early 2018 the UC San Diego High Performance Wireless Research and Education network partnered with the University of Nevada Reno's ALERTWildfire.org, the Orange County Fire Authority, and Southern California Edison to obtain, install and operate a sensor infrastructure on a Santiago Peak microwave tower for environmental observations. A specific objective was the creation of capabilities to help with the assessment of fire dangers, and the ability to monitor active fires and to respond based on real-time data.

To accomplish this, six cameras and one meteorological sensor system were deployed on Santiago Peak. Four of the six cameras are fixed 90+ degree view angle cameras that cannot be optically panned, tilted, or zoomed, providing a consistent 360 degree view around the mountain top, 24 hour per day. Each of the four cameras has two independent six megapixel imager chips and independent lenses to provide separate views for color and near-IR capable monochrome at higher sensitivity. This brings the total number of imaging capable sensors to ten. The other two cameras have a 1080p high-definition resolution switchable between a color mode and a near-infrared mode. The most powerful aspect of these cameras are that they can be panned, tilted, or zoomed (PTZ). The PTZ cameras provide the capability for detailed views of specific incidents especially smaller or further away ones, where the fixed cameras do not provide enough insight. The two PTZ cameras are mounted on different sides of the tower to avoid the tower structure becoming an obstacle to the view.

The images from the cameras are currently collected and archived at a rate of one per minute for the fixed cameras, and every ten seconds for the ptz cameras. HPWREN's primary interface to the data is at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/cameras/SP.html.

In parallel, the PTZ cameras can be viewed through the ALERTWildfire interface (http://www.alertwildfire.org/orangecoca/) which also samples every 10 seconds. The ALERTWildfire interface provides a map showing the location of each camera and the direction it is pointing for reference. It also has the option for the user to replay the last 15 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hours, 6 hours, or 12 hours in a time lapse mode providing important near realtime views of rapidly changing situations. ALERTWildfire also provides the command and control interface used by fire agencies to point and zoom the PTZ cameras.

The meteorological sensor data is available via http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/Sensors/SP-WXT520/ and updated once per minute, although data is being collected at a faster rate. E.g., the sensor provides wind speed and direction values once per second. The online interface also allows for 21-day time series to be graphed. HPWREN's meteorological data is available at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/Sensors/. The meteorological data are incorporated into the National Weather Service forecast models in partnership with the University of Utah's MesoWest project (https://synopticlabs.org/about-us/).

HPWREN had begun deploying mountain-top cameras as far back as 2002, and makes camera data publicly available via its http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/cameras/ web interface.

This setup has already proven its value during the August 2018 Holy Fire, which started around 13:02 in the Upper Trabuco Canyon/Holy Jim Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest in Orange County on August 6, 2018, and came close to burning the Santiago Peak mountain top. Various data sets have been provided to agencies related to firefighting and to the public, especially via uploads of live or processed videos to Youtube.

Uploaded data sets include a time-lapse animation about the origin time and location of the Holy Fire:

This 7 frames per second time-lapse animation shows in 480 once-per-minute frames the time period between 09:01:30 and 17:59:30 on August 6, 2018 around Santiago Peak the origin time and location of the Holy Fire in the in the Upper Trabuco Canyon/Holy Jim Canyon area of the Cleveland National Forest in Orange County, and how it evolved during this time period. The view is from a six megapixel automated camera on Santiago Peak, pointing south. The camera is fixed, and cannot be optically panned, tilted, or zoomed. The video was encoded at the 3072x2048 pixel resolution. The timestamps in the upper left were inserted by the processing server at UCSD when an image was acquired; they are synchronized via NTP, and high reliability is very likely. The fire appears to start around the 13:02:30 frame.

More details, including a high-resolution downloadable video as well as a collection of the individual frames are available via the HPWREN web interface.

Multiple video streams were made available live across multiple days, including:

HPWREN Live Stream - 20180806 Holy Fire in the Holy Jim Trabuco Canyon area near Santiago Peak

HPWREN Live Stream - 20180806 Holy Fire in the Holy Jim Trabuco Canyon area near Santiago Peak

HPWREN Live Stream - 20180808 Holy Fire third day, seen from Santiago Peak

HPWREN Live Stream - 20180808+ Holy Fire, as seen from Santiago Peak

Processed non-live time-lapse animations allowed for combining multiple camera views into a synchronized composite, and to speed the video up considerably for summary overview usage. Those included:

20180806 Holy Fire 360 degree animation around Santiago Peak (4 cameras)

20180806 Holy Fire ptz animation around Santiago Peak

20180806 Holy Fire over night view (4 cameras)

20180807 Holy Fire second day ptz animation around Santiago Peak

20180808 Holy Fire early morning of third day (color plus monochrome)

20180808 Holy Fire third day east ptz animation around Santiago Peak

20180808 Holy Fire third day west ptz animation around Santiago Peak

and three videos of the near-burnover of Santiago Peak:

20180809 Holy Fire: The Fight for Santiago Peak

20180809 Holy Fire Santiago Peak fire approach, tower-east ptz

20180809 Holy Fire Santiago Peak fire approach, tower-west ptz