Oakland’s N5SHIELD: A High-Tech Defense Against Wildfires

The city of Oakland, CA has introduced a new pilot project – called N5SHIELD – to test the use of sensors to detect signs of wildfires. N5SHIELD is a joint project involving the Oakland Fire Department (OFD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), and the technology company N5 Sensors. Oakland has experienced devastating wildfires in the last few years – in 2020 alone, fires burned over 4 million acres, claiming thousands of homes, and taking over 30 human lives.

Ten real time fire-detection sensors have been installed in strategic locations across Oakland’s wildfire urban interface. The sensors will continuously sample air quality and transmit back to the vendor. The vendor will then email and/or text OFD dispatch whenever the sensors are alerting for a fire. The pilot project will test whether these sensors and associated alert algorithms work, and whether this technology can be used in an urban interface setting.

The pilot is expected to be tested for twenty-four months. It will monitor air quality changes only, there is no audio, visual, or other surveillance capability with the technology being deployed. There is no cost to the city associated with the acquisition of the equipment, maintenance, or use of the technology during the pilot phase.

“Understanding the year-round threat, the Oakland Fire Department is committed to seeking out any and all strategies to prevent wildfires within our jurisdiction,” said Oakland Fire Chief, Dr. Reginald Freeman. “Whether it’s by ensuring we have adequate staffing, developing new regional partnerships, acquiring new equipment and apparatus, or through new piloting of new technology that may prevent the loss of properties and save lives. Early detection and suppression of fire is critical in the prevention of catastrophic wildfire.”