County Fire Introduces New Technology, Increasing Public Safety for Residents

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San Bernardino County's Fire Marshal Mike Horton joined Tuesday's Board of Supervisors Meeting to provide an update on some exciting new technologies being used by the department to increase public safety.

"Data-driven applications allow for more specific deployment of resources to increase the safety of County residents," said Horton during the presentation.

The Damage Assessment App uses parcel data from the Assessor's Office to record live, real-time data to County, State and Federal stakeholders. The program was used to document civil unrest in the fall of 2020, and can also be used for weather-related incidents and earthquakes.

The Vacant Building Reporter tracks high crime and vandalism areas, and the data can be easily shared with cooperative agencies. 

"We use this to combat blight in our neighborhoods," said Horton. "It helps us track high crime volume and address particular hazards in buildings. Thanks to this program, we now know beforehand if a building is occupied and if there are other associated hazards."

One of the most exciting new applications is the Illegal Fireworks Reporter, which launched on June 17, 2020. The online survey — winner of a 2021 NACo Achievement Award — allows residents to anonymously report the illegal sale or use of fireworks in their neighborhoods.

"We have found the app is very effective in plotting and pinpointing areas where these illegal fireworks are used," said Horton during the meeting. "The data is used for firework patrol activity to direct resources to those high-use areas. It lets us know exactly where those fireworks are being reported and occurring in real time."

Each report is provided to law enforcement partners and other agencies.

In 2020, the Illegal Fireworks Reporter received 2,048 complaints (1,268 in the San Bernardino County Fire Jurisdiction and 780 outside its jurisdiction. All reports outside of County Fire's jurisdiction are shared electronically with outside agencies.

The software reported an 82 percent reduction in fireworks-related 911 calls last year.  Approximately 45,000 pounds of fireworks were confiscated, with 221 citations and $277,000 in fines.

Finally, County Fire has beefed up its Arson Investigation Unit with six POST-certified armed investigators (trained through the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Academy) and launched a new Canine Arson Program. The department's arson mapping software is able to track arson/suspicious activities, arson registrants and youth fire setters. It also allows arson investigators to conduct digital field interviews from their mobile device.