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Cameras are replacing aircraft in fire awareness. A network of high definition cameras placed on peaks throughout the Lake Tahoe region in the US serve for spotting smoke plumes and detecting wild fires.

In a year when huge-scale fires devastated areas of the American West, the AlertTahoe mountaintop fire camera system has been helpful in adding another level of protection in from catastrophic fires.

The fire cameras are strategically located on mountaintops around the region and are used by wildland firefighting agencies for quicker, more efficient responses. The cameras stream real-time images to firefighters and other emergency teams, as well as to the public (via an internet website).

A partnership between the University of Nevada, Reno and the Tahoe Prosperity Center, which raised the funds, has produced an expansion of this unique monitoring system and its usefulness to firefighting officials, by providing either fire discovery, early intelligence and/or situational awareness.      

Traditionally, fire managers would send planes to spot and monitor fires, which takes time and resources, they can now use the cameras in the areas of coverage to do the same, as if they were sitting on the mountaintop overlooking the fires.

Graham Kent, director of the seismological lab in the University said “The camera system can mitigate many of the catastrophic fires by enabling a more rapid response by firefighters. In some cases, the cameras may only provide early intelligence to enable a faster turnaround on evacuations, resource management and fire suppression response.”

According to firehouse.com, each AlertTahoe camera costs about $25,000 including the camera, tower, equipment, installation and connections to the network.

“There was about a four-fold increase over the number of fires monitored from last year, due mostly to more cameras as well as increased fire activity near the south shore area of Lake Tahoe,” said Kent.