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High-def Cameras Watch for Wildfires in California

March 12, 2010

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Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service are testing a program to help spot fires with high-definition cameras mounted on communication towers. Using three cameras, they can cross-triangulate the exact location of a fire and get the right resources there faster than ever before.

The cameras aren't to replace people in lookout towers: What they do is give the dispatchers on the ground the ability to see what the lookouts are seeing. Previously, the dispatcher always relied on the caller to tell them what the fire is doing. Now dispatchers can see -- live -- what the fire is doing. The camera program could save the state thousands of dollars that would otherwise have gone toward wasted resources.

It could also increase response time and save lives, according to Cal Fire. There already are three cameras in place in El Dorado County; the agencies hope to have a fourth online soon. And eventually, the system could be installed across the state.


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