Lake Tahoe’s fire-spotting camera network continues to grow
The Union News Service
LAKE TAHOE — AlertTahoe Fire Prevention System, a program that aids firefighters in responding to and preventing fires with camera technology, continues to expand.
Last summer, eight fire cameras were stationed throughout the Tahoe Basin, and the number has now passed 10.
More installations are planned this summer. Eventually, AlertTahoe staff hope to have 20 to 25 cameras in the region.
“If someone accidentally lights a fire, there’s a system now in the Basin that will be gotten on top of quickly, and that’s why it’s there,” said Graham Kent of the University of Nevada, Reno seismological laboratory.
The seismological laboratory is working alongside Tahoe Prosperity Center and Nevada Bureau of Land Management to bring more AlertTahoe cameras to the Tahoe Basin.
Cameras have the ability to detect wildfires in their early stages, which allows crews to respond quickly before fires get out of control.
When a camera notices signs of a fire, it sends out an alert, decreasing the amount of time taken to get on the scene.
On AlertTahoe’s website, anyone can look at current camera views — the access to time-lapse options allows people to see fire activity that the camera sees.
According to AlertTahoe, there are three goals at the heart of the AlertTahoe camera system — immediacy, on-demand time lapse and machine vision.
“We want all three components to work so we don’t get that one fire through,” Kent said.
Kent added that machine vision is an artificial intelligence program that looks for signs of smoke.
“If the group watching (the cameras) doesn’t see, then the computers hopefully will see smoke going up,” he explained.
Existing AlertTahoe cameras have caught eight fires so far in the Tahoe Basin. The newest camera was installed at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort about two weeks ago. Four more camera installations are expected within the next few weeks.
With the recent Fourth of July holiday, the significance of AlertTahoe rises. With an increase of people in the Basin comes an increase of activity, which affects fire risk.
It’s also important to note that AlertTahoe includes extreme weather and earthquake monitoring components in addition to its fire cameras.
Each AlertTahoe camera costs approximately $30,000, including the tower, equipment, installation and connections to the network.
According to Heidi Hill Drum, executive director of Tahoe Prosperity Center, the price is small in comparison to the cost of fighting a fire.
“This is a no-brainer to support it. It makes sense,” Drum said. “If it offers an extra level of protection to give fire fighters an edge, we will go for it.”
Autumn Whitney is a reporter for the Sierra Sun.
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