local | Environment

Web Cams: Not Just For Traffic Anymore

OPB | Nov. 26, 2012 4:28 p.m. | Bend, Oregon

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Fire crews in Central Oregon could have a new tool at their disposal for next year’s fire season.  The Oregon Department of Forestry is planning a network of fire spotting webcams for the region. 

The new system could help crews snuff out fires before they get big.

It’s said that lightning never strikes in same place twice, which is precisely the problem when it comes to catching wildfires when they’re small. 

Lightning storms like this one from last August can spark hundreds of small fires over vast distances. 

George Ponte is the Central Oregon District Forester.  He says fire managers have long relied on spotters in lookout towers to help triangulate a fire’s location.  But he says these facilities can be cost prohibitive.

“A new lookout tower costs over $300,000.  These smoke detection cameras can be installed from anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000 depending on the infrastructure that’s available at the site.”

Ponte says the cameras will supplement — not replace — traditional spotters.  The district has initial plans for 8 cameras — some could be in place by next summer.

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