Laptop Leads Battle Against Cowboy Fire

By Artie Ojeda
|  Friday, Sep 3, 2010  |  Updated 1:44 PM PDT
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A brush fire burning near the <a title=Pacific Crest Trail charred 300 acres on Wednesday, according to Cal Fire. Source: Firefighters Battle Wall of Flames | NBC San Diego" />

A brush fire burning near the Pacific Crest Trail charred 300 acres on Wednesday, according to Cal Fire. Source: Firefighters Battle Wall of Flames | NBC San Diego

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Raw Video: Cowboy Fire

The fire is burning between the communities of Campo and Potrero.
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A high-tech Internet-based system is being tested while hundreds of firefighters battle the so-called "Cowboy Fire" burning in the east county.

As of noon Friday, the fire burning near the Pacific Crest Trail between the communities of Campo and Potrero was holding at 719 acres and was 15-percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

Using a system created by engineers at MIT, firefighters can help map out the fire perimeters, location of crews, wind patterns and more.

Field crews are fitted with portable GPS devices. With the click of a mouse, computer operators know exactly where crews are located, which would have been critical in the 2007 wildfires.

During the Harris Fire in 2007, an engine was lost and eventually burned. Crews had no idea where the engine was located. An incident like that would not happen with this new system because officials would know the exact location of their crews and equipment.

"Firefighters worked throughout the night in extremely steep terrain and heavy fuel (brush), which hasn’t burned in over 100 years," said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesperson

Roxanne Provaznik. "As expected the fire activity has increased slightly, but there are no homes currently threatened."

No roads are closed and no homes have been damaged.

Campo Elementary School's 425 students were evacuated Thursday as a precaution because the fire was “getting pretty close,” according to a Mountain Empire School District spokesperson. The students were taken to Mountain Empire High School.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Campo is about 50 miles east of San Diego near the U.S.-Mexico border.

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