BLM Partners with University of Oregon and University of Nevada Reno on Innovative Wildfire Detection Cameras
Michael Campbell, Public Affairs Specialist
As fire seasons have become longer and more devastating, firefighters have looked to wide variety of technologies to assist with detection and response. The Alert Wildfire detection camera project, which began over a decade ago, was developed in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Oregon/Washington, BLM Idaho, BLM Nevada, and University of Nevada Reno - Nevada and University of Oregon’s Seismological Laboratories.
In 2004, the University of Nevada Reno developed a stand-alone microwave network to support the change from analog to digital seismic station sensors. The microwave system runs on an unlicensed broadband public safety band that is networked across the states. This system has evolved from just transmitting seismic data, to the current wildfire detection video data from stations and cameras located primarily on BLM-permitted lands.
The cameras and associated tools help firefighters and first responders:
discover/locate/confirm fire ignition,
quickly scale fire resources up or down appropriately,
monitor fire behavior through containment,
during firestorms, help evacuations through enhanced situational awareness,
ensure contained fires are monitored appropriately through their demise, and
view prescribed fires both during ignition and during monitoring stages
The camera network is fed by a single point mountaintop camera via microwave to central hosting point at the University of Nevada Reno. The cameras are 1080 high definition/high speed with pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities. The cameras also provide a live feed of for designated users of six frames per second.
Cameras provide a remote feed to a web page that updates the pictures every 10 seconds. Over the last several years, this innovative technology has provided critical information for thousands of fires throughout the western U.S.
In Fiscal Year 2022, the Oregon/Washington Bureau of Land Management awarded the University of Oregon (UO) $718,346 to help aid in wildfire prevention by developing the most integrated, and interorganizational wildfire detection system in the United States.
Oregon/Washington BLM has programmed $475,000 for the wildfire cameras in Fiscal Year 2023. "This funding will provide continued statewide access to vital information of emergent wildfires and provide for the most efficient and effective emergency response, thereby ensuring the quality of lives of Oregonians and protecting our natural resources," said Jeff Fedrizzi, BLM Oregon State Fire Management Officer.
In 2023, the UO will be the primary lead with BLM in Oregon and Washington and the University of Nevada Reno will continue to support all three western states.
In 2022, the BLM helped lead the establishment of an Oregon Statewide Wildfire Detection Camera System with the goal of establishing collaborative governance to establish and implement a statewide wildfire detection camera strategy that addresses a long-term detection camera build-out between the multiple agencies while also addressing current and future detection camera technologies.
The ALERT Wildfire program continues to grow, the ability to locate smoke at a very early stage will ultimately allow firefighters more time to assess the situation and mobilize appropriate resources. “In the end, this unique use of technology will save taxpayers money as well as our forests, grasslands, property, and lives, while managing risk to our firefighters through an informed response,” continued Fedrizzi.