A pilot program to detect, locate and monitor wildfires using a system of live, remote cameras moved one step closer to reality this week.
The Remote Camera Wildfire Alert Pilot Program passed through a key Colorado House of Representatives committee on Monday, and supporters hope the test program will be an additional instrument to continue combating worsening fire seasons throughout Colorado.
“We need every tool in our arsenal working to help discover, prevent and contain the wildfires that threaten our communities and our environment,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, in a news release. McLachlan is a cosponsor of the bill, along with Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose.
Colorado would not be the first state to implement a network of live cameras to detect and monitor wildfires. The ALERTWildfire Camera Network is a system of over 160 cameras developed by scientists at UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Nevada, Reno. The network spans California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Idaho to provide firefighters real-time fire developments and conditions.
The bipartisan bill passed the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee on Monday with a vote of 10 to 1 in favor. The committee allocated $2 million for the pilot project.
The bill calls for a system of remote pan-tilt-zoom cameras to provide a live feed to help detect, locate and confirm a wildfire ignition. The pilot program will be run by the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting within the Department of Public Safety, which will report to the Wildfire Matters Review Committee about the effectiveness of the test system and whether it could potentially be used throughout the state.
“Remote cameras can provide our firefighters with a live feed of the fires they are working to contain or extinguish, making their efforts safer and more effective. These cameras could also lead to earlier detection of wildfires, meaning more successful and less costly mitigation efforts,” McLachlan said of the program’s camera system.
While a location for the first pilot project has not yet been determined, the bill outlines a collaboration between the state, federal agencies and local stakeholders in the fire service to determine the right location and operation of the camera system.
The legislation comes as state and national partners work to address worsening fire seasons with limited resources. In the past week, the U.S. Forest Service announced it is considering turning some of its nearly 10,000 firefighters – primarily seasonal workers – into a full-time firefighting operation. In February, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced it would build about 11,000 miles of strategically placed fuel breaks across the West to help control wildfires in several states.