Bay Area Firefighters Develop Game-Changing Wildfire Technology

Since the first big firestorms of 2017, high technology has improved the tools of firefighters, who still work mainly in the field and often with little information on how the overall fight is unfolding.

Two Bay Area firefighters have developed a comprehensive situational awareness app that fellow firefighters love — and say it should expand to other departments.

Whether on an iPad or another tablet, the “Tablet Command” system developed by Bay-Area is nothing less than a technological game-changer for firefighters, by firefighters.

Contra Costa County firefighters William Pidgeon, who is also a computer expert, and Andy Bozzo, a working firefighter, used their real-world experiences to come up with the Tablet Command software.

The software is now used by 265 fire departments across North America, and the number of users is growing every day.

“I wasn’t ready to build a critical app, so we raised funds with friends and family, started a business, and partnered with a software development company to develop the first version of the app” , said Pidgeon.

The app is about situational awareness of the entire fire incident, making information available to all incident commanders and first responders.

“The good thing about it is on an iPad, which for most departments they can afford,” Chief Costa said.

Before Tablet Command, laptops that did half as much cost at least twice as much. To date, all departments still only have paper notes, paper maps and a radio, with little access to the overview.

Two Sonoma County firefighters saw the software working while on mutual aid incidents, and they fought to bring it to the Bay Area.

“I was blown away. I was like, ‘Wow, we really need to bring this to Sonoma County,'” Petaluma Fire Department Deputy Chief Chad Costa said.

“This is, hands down, one of the best pieces of technology I’ve ever used,” added Sonoma Valley Fire Battalion Chief Spencer Andreis.

Tablet Command includes fire history for any area, all roads in the state (including secondary roads and fire roads), the location of every piece of equipment, and thousands of cameras (including remote utility cameras), local fire weather and is infinitely expandable.

From the field, firefighters can capture real-time information, dramatically speeding up and improving responses.

If there is a weakness in this system, it occurs in remote areas where there is little or no Wi-Fi. But, with commercial satellite Wi-Fi internet already on the market, this problem will likely be also resolved.

Margie D. Carlisle