Australia — World-leading surveillance technology placed in a Sydney observation tower will be used to detect bushfires and catch arsonists this summer.
The 24 hour, motion sensing cameras linked to a state-of-the-art computer system can detect smoke and fires, and alert authorities, even via a text message.
NSW Premier Morris Iemma and Emergency Services Minister Nathan Rees today launched Firecam — a AU$50,000 system trialled in Sydney’s northern bushland.
The pilot system has been installed in the Berowra Fire Observation Tower and is capable of detecting fires within an 11km range.
Firecam is based on Chubb UK’s “ForestVu”, which was first used on oil rigs and has been adapted for the bushfire season.
If successful, the Australian-first could be rolled out across NSW, the premier said.
“This is using world class technology to get information to our firefighters about possible fires so when they respond they will be better prepared (with) better information,” he told reporters north of Sydney.
“It is also the latest weapon to track down arsonists.
“Arsonists are criminals and we will take every measure to track down these criminals who threaten life and property.”
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said Firecam could even detect the make and model of an arsonist’s car.
“I am hoping this just is another signal that says to arsonists we don’t want you around,” he said.
If successful Firecam will be used in the other six observation towers across Sydney where urban areas meet bushland, such as the Blue Mountains, he said.
NSW police Detective Inspector Murray Chapman, head of Strike Force Toronto that tackles arson, said another approach to reducing bushfires was to target parents.
“Every year we see a large percentage of our bushfire lighters as juveniles, particularly over the school holiday period,” he said.
“We’ve commenced 32 legal actions, 26 of those are against juveniles and six have been against adults,” he said.
He said parents needed to educate their children about the danger of fire, and the consequences of lighting them.
While bushfires were down about a third since last year, close to half of all recorded bushfires were deliberately lit, he said.
A total of 249 bushfires have been recorded since the beginning of October this year.