Today, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the selection of the first two contracts for the Wildfire Innovation Sprint, which were the result of an executive order signed by the Governor on his first full day in office on January 8, 2019. Under the executive order, the Newsom Administration issued a Request for Innovative Ideas to modernize the way the state contracts for acquisition and development of technology systems, with the goal of getting cutting-edge firefighting technology in the hands of emergency responders by next fire season.
“This new procurement process leverages one of the things California does best, which is embracing innovation and technology to address some of the most unprecedented challenges California is facing,” said Governor Newsom. “The use of innovative and groundbreaking technology to bolster response to wildfires will help our firefighters and first responders tremendously, and if we can predict the patterns of a fire, we will be able to save lives and property.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the California Department of Technology and the Department of General Services collaborated with experts and government leaders to develop a problem statement to address wildfire management, focusing on detection, prediction and notification. Out of 131 proposals, two innovators were selected to conduct what is known as a “Proof of Concept,” which is a working model that will be initially tested on a small scale in the field. Ten additional applicants were invited to become part of an innovator pool for future consideration.
The first two contracts were awarded to Technosylva Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation.
- Technosylva will receive $383,000 to develop a prototype that predicts the path of a wildfire in real-time using an advanced cloud-based modeling subscription service and considers the vegetation, current and predicted weather, and topography. It is the goal that this Proof of Concept will help decision makers determine the probable path of fire spread to allow for early notifications to emergency decision makers for purposes of emergency notifications, evacuations, and public updates. In addition, decision makers can consider potential fire spread to order and place additional emergency response resources. This project will encompass four primary locations, including Monterey, Butte, San Luis Obispo and Napa counties. Oversight locations will be based in Redding and Riverside.
- Northrop Grumman’s contract for $1.6 million will entail the creation of an early wildfire ignition detection system based on remote sensors in the sky that interfaces directly with local computer aided dispatch systems, so appropriate resources can be dispatched in real-time. The goal of the Proof of Concept is to obtain new wildfire detections as quickly, if not quicker, than a 9-1-1 caller reporting a new emergency. This project also covers the same four primary locations of Monterey, Butte, San Luis Obispo, and Napa counties, and will have the potential to expand to a total of 23 locations statewide.
Both contracts run through December 31, 2019. At that time, CAL FIRE will determine if the projects will be amplified statewide.
Since his first day in office, the Governor has taken swift action to advance disaster mitigation, preparedness and response, and support state and local recovery from recent catastrophic wildfire events, which includes:
- Investing nearly $1 billion in 2019 budget in funding for emergency preparedness and response.
- Accelerating implementation of the 35 priority fuel reduction projects identified in the Community Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Report to protect over 200 of California’s most at-risk communities.
- Redirecting up to 100 California National Guard personnel to create fuel reduction and fire suppression crews, and undertake priority projects.
- Launching the California for All Emergency Preparedness Campaign, a joint initiative between Cal Volunteers and Cal OES, to connect vulnerable populations with culturally and linguistically competent support and bolster resiliency. The $50 million campaign is supporting the dispatch of expert disaster teams to key regions and the development of targeted public awareness and outreach campaigns.
- Providing funding from the California Disaster Assistance Act and Disaster Response-Emergency Operations Account to support critical disaster relief and recovery activities.
- Publishing the Alert and Warning Guidelines ahead of schedule to help local governments develop robust and effective alert and warning programs.
- Securing delegation of authority from the Secretary of Defense to fly the California National Guard’s infrared-equipped Unmanned Aerial Systems in support of CAL FIRE missions throughout 2019.
- Partnering with the federal government to secure the California National Guard’s access to satellite-based wildfire detection technology.
- A Request for Proposal has been awarded to begin overdue modernization of California’s 9-1-1 system.
- Working with California’s congressional delegation to secure the state’s eligibility for $12.6 billion in federal funding for disaster relief.
- An executive order signed on July 31 authorizing the surge of almost 400 seasonal firefighters to CAL FIRE this year.