The installation of the newest and final of 11 planned cameras for the AlertTahoe fire camera network is completed and the camera went live on Wednesday, July 31, realizing the goal of placing high-tech cameras on mountaintops ringing the Lake Tahoe Basin and surrounding forests and communities to help firefighters spot and track wildfires.
"It's truly satisfying to have met this goal, it's taken several years, thousands of hours of work from our team at the University of Nevada, Reno's Nevada Seismological Lab, countless hours of fundraising by the Tahoe Prosperity Center and great collaborations with fire districts, federal and state land agencies," Graham Kent, director of the Seismological Lab and the creator of the network, said. "It's been a great success."
From playing cat and mouse with an arsonist who set more than 30 fires around South Lake Tahoe day and night for almost three months - and catching all of the fires before they grew out of control - to lightning strikes and forest fires, the AlertTahoe network has been used by firefighting managers in stopping 56 fires since it began in 2013 with a lone camera on the north shore of the majestic mile-high lake.
With crucial fundraising support from the Tahoe Prosperity Center, the University of Nevada, Reno and the Eldorado National Forest and the USFS Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit the system added more cameras each year, and also spawned expansion into the Great Basin of Nevada with the BLM and has evolved into the AlertWildfire network that reaches into California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho with more than 250 cameras overlooking forests, rangeland and especially the wildland/urban interface where large populations live in forested and wooded terrain.
"The Tahoe Prosperity Center works on innovative solutions to improve the community, environment and economy in the Lake Tahoe Basin," Heidi Hill Drum, CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, said. "The AlertTahoe cameras provided a way to do that with early detection. The fundraising was the easy part since the community really came together to support this idea. And the proof is in the 56 fires that our brave firefighters stopped in the past few years - keeping our communities safe."
Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation now has an endowment set up for ongoing AlertTahoe camera maintenance as well.
The AlertTahoe fire camera network began in 2013 with a prototype system. As the first network, AlertTahoe was a pilot program deploying pan-tilt-zoom cameras that rotate 360 degrees, giving real-time information, coupled with private microwave networks in the region surrounding the pristine and beautiful Lake Tahoe.
Fire officials are able to control the cameras remotely from their computers or phones and have even been tracking controlled burns around the basin. They are a critical help in spotting wildfires as early as possible so fire crews can respond and assign resources before the fire is out of control.
"The camera network is another tool in the toolbox for firefighting managers, not only do they use it for early detection and confirmation of fire reports, they use it to help mobilize and distribute resources for the firefighting effort," Kent said. "With the potential for catastrophic fires looming over the Tahoe Basin, our hope is that AlertTahoe helps firefighters stop fires quickly."