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California Firefighters Battle Blazes Using Aging Computer Infrastructure

As firefighters this Fall battled the most expensive fires in the history of California, they are relied on an aging computer infrastructure, with some pieces dating back to the 1980s.
The California Department of Forestry still uses quite a bit of DOS technology, mixed in with more modern systems, as it battled the wildfires that have blackened large areas of southern California.

"California does have budget woes, and we have to respond to those needs," said Ronald Ralph, CIO of the California Department of Forestry, which is coordinating the firefighting efforts. "CDF has a limited budget; we tend to spend most of our money on fire apparatus, aircraft, personnel--the things it takes to put out fires. A lot of our systems are aging, and we are aggressively upgrading them as we speak."

He added, "I think the systems are doing extremely well under a very heavy load. We're experiencing the highest level of activity we've ever seen. All the systems are holding up just fine. Could we use newer, faster technology? Sure. But from an IT perspective, we are fully meeting our mission in support of the fire activity."

Nearly 12,000 firefighters and support crew fought seven major fires in four California counties that claimed more than 20 lives, burned more than 730,000 acres, and destroyed more than 2,600 homes. The state spent an estimated $9 million a day to fight the fires, and the total cost could reach $200 million, state officials told The Associated Press, while it's estimated that the toll on the state's economy will reach $2 billion.

The CDF uses many systems based on Microsoft Windows NT and Windows 2000, wireless technology, and Geographic Information Systems, to fight the fires.

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