High tech tool fights, even prevents, forest fires

High tech tool fights, even prevents, forest fires

30 July 2011

published by www.kmtr.com

USA — Fire season is picking up, and the Douglas Forest Protective Association has a high tech tool to spot fires before flames even spark up.

Many can remember when forest protection agencies would have to pay folks to stay up in a lookout tower for months and phone in when they saw smoke.

Now, in many spots around Western Oregon, that’s a thing of the past.

Enter the D.F.P.A. fire detection camera system: 29 cameras spread across Oregon, all sending feeds back to Roseburg in real time. On default, the cameras spin 360 degrees, taking short videos as it turns. But if an employee notices something strange in the play-back, they can take over the camera; turning it where ever they want, even zooming in.

“Also, if they should miss something, our detection software can actually pick up what looks like a column of smoke and pull our attention to that,” says Tom Fields with D.F.P.A., “so we can further investigate it.”

The system has been put to other uses as well. A few years back Fields says a family got lost on the way to the beach. Someone spotted them with the cameras and directed search and rescue to their location.

Tom says the system is great, but preventing fires in the first place is still the number one priority.

He says crews have already suppressed 17 fires. Many started by burn piles that folks thought they put out weeks earlier. He says now is a good time to check on any burn spots and make sure nothing’s smoldering.

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