CAL FIRE vehicles receiving Automatic Vehicle Location equipment

It will improve the situational awareness of firefighters.

A year and a half ago the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) signed a contract to provide technology in 1,200 state-owned vehicles to facilitate mission critical data communications. The Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) equipment being installed now will improve the situational awareness of firefighters by allowing full Computer Aided Dispatch connectivity and position updates of frontline fire response vehicles. The AVL systems are being used in Battalion Chief vehicles, Fire Engines, Crew Transports, Dozers, and Dozer transports.

CAL FIRE's Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) equipment
CAL FIRE’s Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) equipment being installed now in vehicles in the San Bernardino Unit. CAL FIRE photo.

The equipment CAL FIRE selected has triple redundancy. Cellular, VHF, and satellite communication methods allow for usage even in the most remote areas.

Installation of AVL hardware began in the Fresno Kings Unit of CAL FIRE in 2017 and has continued to present. The San Bernardino Unit is the eighteenth unit to receive AVL during this process.

CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Chief Glenn Barley said, “Implementation of AVL is a significant step forward to help assure the most efficient and effective deployment of CAL FIRE resources, and provide for their safety, both locally and across the state.

Wildfire Today has  been an advocate for the Holy Grail of Wildland Firefighting, which is knowing the real time location of firefighters and the fire. This system will implement a portion of that, tracking the location of firefighting vehicles and other mobile equipment (but probably can’t track dismounted personnel). It will also have the capability of displaying a map, and when data is available it could show the location of the fire. For example, it could show a sketched-out hand drawn map of the fire, or live video from an air attack ship or drone orbiting 10,000 feet over the fire. And, importantly, it could indicate the location of all firefighting resources that have location tracking enabled.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “CAL FIRE vehicles receiving Automatic Vehicle Location equipment”

  1. A very long time in coming, as Dispatcher and ECC Chief, trying to locate equipment on a moving incident was always very tough, and those bad calls of mayday or firefighter burned over the air and not knowing just where they are. Next step is to get portable locators on all firefighters on the line, especially fire crews. And we need to push this for our federal parnters.

    1. How do you propose equipping the vast amounts of Rural FD, small VFD’s and other cooperators including contractors? Who will pay for this? Who will coordinate this? Who will be watching the monitor to see where the toys are at? As a IC during initials attack, it’s unrealistic to expect me to do it, among everything else on my plate.

      When I show up to an emerging incident, 3,000+ acres and growing, with 20+ mixed bag of resources, seems pretty unrealistic to equip. We can’t even talk on the same radios, let alone have this high dollar wishlist of equipment on everyone, and expect it to work.


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