Volunteers Keeping Watch Over California

Watch Duty makes it easy to know what's happening near you, right now.

PUBLISHED JUN 30, 2024 1:46 P.M.
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Where there's smoke, there's fire. Watch Duty has all the details in one place.

Where there's smoke, there's fire. Watch Duty has all the details in one place.

As profiled in a June 21 Washington Post article, a team of volunteers monitoring a variety of real time information sources 24/7 are behind the popular Watch Duty app, which is keeping communities informed about active fires burning in their areas.

Watch Duty is on the web and also available for free download from your mobile device app store. It's managed and maintained by the Watch Duty nonprofit, founded in 2021 by Northern California resident and software entrepreneur John Mills. 

Spurred by a lack of a single source of information about fires burning near his home in 2020, Mills started Watch Duty to serve as a one-stop wildfire information portal, drawing on information from live video feeds, first responder radio traffic, and other official and media sources.

Watch Duty volunteers include retired wildland firefighters, dispatchers, first responders and reporters. The app presents current active prescribed burn and wildfire information in a map format. Clicking a fire icon on the map displays status information, and if the icon represents a wildfire, let's users find the surrounding evacuation zones, evacuation instructions, and active evacuation shelters.

If you haven’t already done so, download the free app today on your mobile device, or visit and bookmark the Watch Duty website. And please consider making a donation to the Watch Duty nonprofit so they can continue keeping watch over your community. 

John Mills, the Watch Duty founder, and all the volunteers at their monitoring posts, are examples of citizens perceiving a need and then organizing to address it.

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