Thursday, January 24, 2019

21st Century Fire Detection is Here

A collection of screen shots from WildfireALERT and photo of one of the towers where cameras are placed.

WildfireALERT is a promising new network of fire detection cameras with day and night detection capabilities. Developed by a team of seismologists from University of Oregon, University of Nevada and UC San Diego who developed ShakeALERT, for you guessed it, early detection of earthquakes, the same system can be used for wildfires, floods and other natural hazards.  

Using wireless, high-bandwidth IP connectivity, the system can:

  • discover, locate and confirm fire ignitions
  • allow for the quick scaling up or down of fire resources
  • monitor fire behavior through containment
  • help evacuations through enhanced situational awareness
  • ensure contained fires are monitored appropriately through their demise
  • interface with predictive fire and weather modeling
  • produce time lapse imagery

In addition the network can be:
  • accessed by phone, tablet, laptop or desktop 
  • accessed securely by fire managers and responders, with direct camera control
  • accessed by the public for situational awareness
  • funded by multiple stakeholders (private sector too!)
  • scaled infinitely
Current installations include AlertTahoe, AlertSDG&E in San Diego County, AlertSoCal, AlertNevada, AlertOregon, AlertIdaho (BLM) with more on the way. The applications are seemingly endless with interest from the private sector such as utilities, high fire risk counties, federal, state and Tribal management agencies and other private stakeholders and communities. This diverse interest also allows for stakeholders to spread the cost of installation and maintenance. 

FYI: the cost of the camera is relatively inexpensive at $2-3,000. The cost to construct a new tower, with power, runs about $75,000. If a camera can be placed on an existing and use its power source, the cost drops dramatically to around $10,000. 
21st century fire tower!
The developers indicate that they are researching additional applications such as temporary, rapid response set up to monitor fires or other hazards in places not already covered by cameras. 

Overall, we are impressed at the potential for improving the wildfire response system. Stay tuned!

For more information contact: Prof. Douglas Toomey, University of Oregon, Earth Sciences.

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