Wildfire spotting network started in Tahoe, grows to 610 cameras
What began as a pilot project to protect Lake Tahoe from wildfires is now being used throughout the state and west coast.
As the threat of wildfires has grown in California, so has a network of high-tech cameras in the backcountry that can spot the first outbreak of flames.
The 610th ALERTWildfire camera was installed in California last month, according to the program office at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.
The size of the multi-state system almost doubled in the past four months, primarily in California, where more than 4.1 million acres have burned this year. There are also 41 cameras in Nevada, nine in Oregon, six in Idaho and one in Washington.
Geoscientist Neal Driscoll, director of the ALERTWildfire program at UCSD, said the system allows first responders to begin fighting fires at their outset.
“These cameras save critical time by allowing rapid confirmation of 911 calls and accurate location of new fires using the ALERTWildfire web-based interface, time that would otherwise be spent sending engines to mountaintops or launching aircraft to confirm fire ignition and location,” he said in a statement to the Associated Press.
The network began in the Tahoe region as a pilot project of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno. UCSD and the University of Oregon then became partners.
The Tahoe Prosperity Center has played a large role in bringing cameras to Tahoe. They launched a fundraising campaign in 2015 which raised enough money to install 13 cameras which was two more than their original goal.
“These early fire detection cameras have given our local firefighters the intel needed to stop more than 65 fires around our lake since their installation and counting,” Heidi Hill Drum, TPC CEO said in a letter to its members. “Just two weeks ago, a fire on the West Shore was seen on two cameras and our local firefighters were quickly able to stop it before it raged out of control, protecting our priceless landscape and communities.”
The most recent camera installed in Tahoe was in Tahoe Donner and helped prevent a fire in its first two weeks. TPC said they are hoping to install at camera at Northstar Ski Resort soon.
Local funding has come from donations by Glenbrook homeowners, Clear Creek Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Rotary Clubs, Big George Ventures, Tahoe Truckee Airport District, Sierra Pacific Foundation, Tahoe Mountain Resorts Foundation, Lahontan Community Foundation and Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation, as well as numerous private individual donors and the US Forest Service.
Funding has also come from San Diego Gas & Electric, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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