South Bay leaders, local researchers put focus on wildfire preparedness in separate, but similar efforts

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, there are separate, but similar efforts underway to address wildfire preparedness.

As the CZU, SCU, and LNU Complex fires continue to burn parts of the Bay Area, Santa Clara County leaders, local researchers and fire officials are looking for ways to better understand and respond to the on-going threat of large-scale fire incidents.

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As it stands, the county sits between two raging lightning complex fires- the CZU and the SCU. This only provides more reason for several in the South Bay to continue their work to establish important plans to prevent additional destruction by fire.

The massive complex fires burning around the Bay Area have become some of the largest in state history. They're giving law makers and local experts even more motivation to explore and improve research, response and resources.

"It's not a- whose fault is it? It's really a- What do we do now? How do we step up? What resources do we need? Who has them? How quickly can we implement," County Supervisor Cindy Chavez told reporters this week.

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County leaders and county fire officials met during Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss Wildland Fire Preparedness and Planning.

They're considering how the county's fire department can best fight and suppress the ever-increasing threat of large-scale fire incidents in the county and throughout California.

"These go from local events, to regional events, to state events, to multi-state events relatively quickly," Chavez said, as she pointed to mutual aid from agencies in surrounding states.

According to documents shared by the county, the plan would ultimately focus on technology, response, and risk reduction.

A separate, but similar approach was introduced Tuesday by San Jose State University (SJSU).

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SJSU introduced the nation's largest academic Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center.

The center will bring together five new faculty members and millions of dollars in new tech.

"The main thing was to build a team that brings different expertise, and new technologies to the problem," Professor Craig Clements told ABC7 News.

As director of the new research center, Clements explained the team will use academics to help predict and better understand wildfires.

"For example, we are now operating an advanced wildfire prediction system that takes wildfire information and weather information and allows us to forecast how wildfires create their own weather," he told ABC7 News. "And how that impacts fire spread."

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He said a relatively new, year-old radar system will also allow researchers to look inside fire plumes.

"Those data can now be ingested into our real-time forecasting system, in real-time," Clements said. "So that way, we can better predict fire behavior and fire spread in the future, and smoke dispersion and smoke transports."

He said it's research that is already being applied to today's wildfire response.

"We've already sent the modeling forecast- the real-time system out to some CAL FIRE folks who are managing some of the fires in the Bay Area right now," he explained.

Clements said the goal really is to provide a better understanding of wildfire science and management through expertise and research in biology, mechanical engineering, meteorology and environmental studies.


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