Back-country firefighters get high-tech help

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors accepted $164,500 in grants Tuesday that will fund the installation of 70 mobile data computers on Cal Fire back-country firefighting rigs.

San Diego Gas & Electric will provide the $131,600 and $32,000 grants to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Foundation and San Diego Regional Fire Foundation, respectively.

The computers will improve first-responder communication and awareness during wildfires and other natural disasters, Cal Fire San Diego Chief Tony Mecham said.

"In San Diego County, we live with the year-round threat of wildfires, so these donations are instrumental to our brothers and sisters who respond to calls every day," he said. "We know that partnerships like this are truly making an impact when we can measurably reduce response times and fire damage to private properties."

Mobile data computers allow firefighters to access navigation, display preliminary plans, identify potential hazards and communicate with dispatchers in real time during an emergency.

The technology is a far cry from the old days, SDG&E President Scott Drury said.

"It was not that long ago when our hard-working first responders were using nothing more than a paper map and radios to pinpoint locations of emergencies," he said. "This partnership is making a regional impact by changing the way firefighters respond to emergencies and protect our communities."

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