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Wildfire cameras installed in Rossmoor

High-definition cameras scan fire-prone areas surrounding community

By Craig Lazzeretti

Assistant managing editor

Friday, Sept. 10 (11:10 a.m.): Rossmoor has a new tool in the effort to protect residents from wildfire: cameras.

Thanks to the Lafayette Police Department, two cameras focused on the fire-prone wilderness areas surrounding Rossmoor are now in operation: one at Lucas and Stanley Dollar drives and another installed Thursday on Terra Granada Drive. GRF Public Safety Manager Tom Cashion said a third camera is planned for Saklan Indian Drive within the next few weeks, and he is eyeing Skycrest Drive as site for a fourth.

The Terra Granada camera was anchored to a concrete PG&E-owned light pole 30 feet from a tinder-dry hillside of trees and grasses. But John Cornell of Lafayette Police Services, who installed this and an estimated 50 similar high-definition cameras in the Bay Area, said each camera can zoom in on a fire up to 10 miles away, and can rotate to provide a 270-degree field of view. This camera, he said, relays info to a tower on the other (west) side of Rossmoor and on to the various monitoring agencies.

The cameras are being provided through ALERTWildfire, a consortium involving the University of Nevada-Reno, UC San Diego and the University of Oregon. The consortium provides state-of-the-art pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras and associated tools. Lafayette PD is one of its city partners leading the buildout of the camera network in the East Bay.

The cameras are designed to help firefighters and first responders keep an eye on fire-prone areas and respond quickly should a blaze ignite. That could mean quickly scaling up resources, monitoring the behavior of fires until they are contained, and expediting evacuations should they become necessary.

The view from the wildfire camera stationed at Lucas and Stanley Dollar drives.

Monitoring the Rossmoor cameras will be the Contra Costa Fire Protection District, various local police departments and the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Emergency Services Division, Cashion said.

In addition to the cameras peering outward from Rossmoor, Cashion said a camera has also been stationed in Las Trampas Regional Wilderness that zooms into Rossmoor, providing an additional layer of monitoring.

The cameras are being provided to Rossmoor free of charge. GRF’s only cost is for mounting hardware, Cashion said.

ALERTWildfire says on its website ( that during the past five fire seasons, its cameras have provided critical information for over 1,500 fires.

“In late 2017, the devastating North Bay Complex and Thomas fires brought into sharp focus the need to quickly expand coverage across the western U.S.,” the consortium says. “Two years later, the ALERT North Bay network provided real-time monitoring of the Kincade Fire from inception and helped provide an environment where no lives were lost nor injuries in the first 24 hours of the fire during widespread evacuations—a first for a large escaped, wind-driven fire in California.”

The consortium says 300 new cameras were installed in California alone in the year following the devastating 2018 Camp Fire, with another 300 going up in the Western United States during the historic 2020 fire season. It expects another 175-plus cameras to be installed across five states this year.

Staff writer Sam Richards contributed to this story.