PETALUMA (KPIX) — The utility blamed for almost a dozen California wildfires is giving a big gift to Marin County Fire Department. PG&E has paid for a network of new fire-surveillance cameras to go up on the county’s peaks.

It has been decades since Marin County has seen a major wildfire but the memory of the Wine Country blazes last year is enough to keep homeowners in high-risk areas concerned — and rightly so.

“The history is here,” said battalion chief Chris Martinelli, “and it will repeat itself. It’s just a matter of when and the best we can do is prepare in multiple ways.”

One of those ways is by making use of a new wildfire camera-surveillance system launched last week.

It is part of a much larger network across the North Bay. Now, six (soon to be seven) cameras across Marin County have been added to it. The high-resolution cameras afford the department real-time data which gives them vital information about blazes as soon as they flare up.

“If we see something is getting started,” Martinelli said, “we can start getting additional resources early, before we have units at scene. It could make a tremendous difference. A quick response is important, especially in a setting that’s mixed with structures and wild land.”

Marin Fire says 69,000 homes are spread around county’s wildland/urban interface and about 20 percent of the county in high- or very high-risk fire zones. The new cameras will keep watch over all of them.

The near-infrared cameras even work at night. The county plans to add more over time and more visibility means more peace of mind for homeowners in fire-prone areas.

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