Local News


Hundreds of cameras line western states, saving lives by watching fires

Posted at 3:48 PM, Nov 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-05 00:04:42-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — As the California wildfires rage through the state, crucial technology is being used to monitor the fires -- technology that started in Nevada.

On the Nevada Fire Info website, there is a link to live cameras that offer a real-time look at most western states.

Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at UNR, says the cameras initially started in Nevada 6 years ago and have since grown.

Now, there are about 300 in California with the goal of getting up to 1,000.

In Nevada, there are about 30 cameras, with plans to add about 20 more by the summer of 2020 thanks to NV Energy and the Bureau of Land Management. Two of those are in Southern Nevada and offer a nearly complete view of the valley.

The cameras are used to assess the severity of fires when calls initially come in.

“They get a call from a citizen, typically there might be a fire, and if you don’t have cameras then you have to make a guess. So what the cameras allow dispatch to do is quickly understand the situation,” said Kent.

During the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, he said officials were able to immediately declare evacuation orders after seeing how bad the fire was on the Alert Wildfire website. No one died in that fire.

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One problem spot in Clark County is Mount Charleston.

Kent said the goal is to get a camera in that area because of the increased risk of fire there.

When asked the timeline of a goal for when that might happen, he had a simple response: “Yesterday.”

Karen Kufta, an assistant state fire management officer for the BLM, says the cameras are great in remote locations where it’s harder to see the severity of a fire. She says in addition to first responders, this is a great tool for the public to use to also watch area.

“It helps really explaining the bigger picture of our commitment of fire fighter resources on the ground,” said Kufta.

There are 4 cameras that should be installed throughout Nevada during the next few months that already have set locations. The planned mountains are Delano, Big Bald, Tenabo and New York Peak.

Anyone can go on the website and view any camera.

In addition, the public can watch time-lapse videos of up to the past 12 hours on any camera.

If someone happens to see a fire break out on a camera, there’s a Twitter image that they can click on and automatically send a Tweet alert to authorities to inform them of a potential blaze.