As the fall winds start to blow, ALERTWildfire encourages the public to use our platform to help detect fire starts and more generally better understand their own situational awareness during fire events.
ALERTWildfire is a consortium of three universities — The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), University of California San Diego (UCSD), and the University of Oregon (UO) — providing access to state-of-the-art Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) fire cameras and associated tools to help firefighters and first responders: (1) discover/locate/confirm fire ignition, (2) quickly scale fire resources up or down appropriately, (3) monitor fire behavior through containment, (4) during firestorms, help evacuations through enhanced situational awareness, and (5) ensure contained fires are monitored appropriately through their demise.
The first ALERT Tahoe project began as a joint project between the Nevada Seismological Laboratory and the Forest Guard team, a group of young students from Meadow Vista, California; the Forest Guards won the Innovate Award at the Children’s Climate Action in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009. Their idea was to seed the forest with cameras that were connected wirelessly to enable early wildfire detection. Their most innovative contribution was the added ingredient of social media to engage the larger public to stand guard over the forest, or “Forest Guard”. Their team leader, Heidi Buck, and 6 young adults joined together with the seismology lab and Sony Europe to deploy a prototype system in 2010.
By mid 2013, the Nevada Seismological Lab embraced a new generation of IP-capable, near-infrared HD cameras that was a game changer, enabling a next generation approach to early wildfire detection/confirmation. Funding through the Tahoe Prosperity Center, USFS and BLM provided the means to launch ALERT Tahoe and the BLM Wildland Fire Camera program. Recent funding through Utilities (SDG&E, SCE and PG&E) and other partners such as Sonoma Water and many county-based organizations will truly enable the vision set out by the Forest Guard young adults – 1000 cameras in California alone!
A decade later, the 4th generation of this system has been installed around the greater Lake Tahoe region and growing throughout the west (now ALERTWildfire), providing critical information on 1000+ fires in the past four years. The public now has access to this expanding system (www.alertwildfire.org), making their dream of a socially engaged public in the fight against wildfire come true. In Orange County alone, more than 100 citizens have volunteered (Orange County Fire Watch) to watch ALERTWildfire cameras during fire season, especially during red flag days and nights!