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A state-of-the art technology to help first responders fight wildfires is making its way to San Jose.
Through state funding, the city will be able to purchase a Mobile Operations Satellite Expeditionary Systems (MOSES) which acts like a hotspot in areas where broadband and cellular connections do not exist to allow firefighters to communicate securely and effectively during a wildfire or natural disaster.
“As we learned in the Camp Fire, once the cellular infrastructure fails, we need something that can stand alone,” Santa Clara County Acting Fire Chief Brian Glass said at a news conference Wednesday. “We need something that we can bring a cellular pathway back, primarily for first responders.”
And that is exactly what MOSES does through a generator and satellite dish. The equipment provides 16 to 24 hours of power and cellular service that spans two to four miles, depending on terrain.
MOSES also helps first responders get information faster to residents through Zonehaven, an online tool that maps evacuation and warning zones, evacuation routes and updates residents on the development of a wildfire or any emergency.
San Jose, Santa Clara County lead the way
The funding for the technology comes from a $2.2 million investment from the state at the request of State Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) and other representatives. So far, San Jose is the only city to receive funding.
And Santa Clara County was the first county to obtain such equipment, too. In November 2020, the county received two of these systems.
When San Jose’s MOSES is completely built and delivered to the city, which is expected to be by February or March 2022, Santa Clara County will house three of the systems.
“The operational capabilities these three units bring to the county is unmatched anywhere in the state,” Glass said.
The County’s existing two systems have already proven to be helpful, Glass said. They were deployed to COVID mass vaccination sites in the county and to Santa Cruz County earlier this year as part of a debris flows prevention project.
“There’s multiple roles any way or at any time you would need uninterrupted high-speed internet connection, to be able to pass critical data,” Glass said.
He also emphasized that despite MOSES being housed in Santa Clara County, it is a tool available to the entire state through the mutual aid program.
Other communities await funding
Cortese, who hosted the Wednesday news conference at a San Jose fire station, said other counties are on their way to receiving MOSES as well.
Ventura County, Santa Barbara County and Kern County each requested two units but have not received funding yet.
The distribution of money for MOSES is part of the state’s nearly $1.5 billion investment this year to help combat the growing threat of wildfires throughout California.
This year, the wildfire season already broke records. Cal Fire had to deploy more staff a few months before they typically do, indicating that wildfire season started earlier. And for the first time, two wildfires crested the Sierra Nevada in 2021 alone.
“It’s the first time in history since we’ve been recording fire history that a fire has gone from one side to the other, and it did it twice in one year,” Santa Clara County Fire Department Capt. Justin Stockman said. “If you asked me five years ago if this could’ve happened, I would’ve said no, and a lot of other people would have been right there with me.”
And while summer has reached its end, firefighters and local leaders said the wildfire season is far from its finish.
“There is no such thing as a typical fire season anymore,” Cortese said. “Fire season (is) year-round right now.”