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The 360-degree view at 10,000 feet at the top of Conifer Mountain is spectacular.
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Now there’s a different sort of spectacular view there for a digital infrared camera that can look for the first signs of wildfire and other threats.
The camera, which was installed thanks to Rotary Wildfire Ready and CORE Electric at the top of a tower at Elk Creek Fire Station 3, is about the size of a cantaloupe, and it spins constantly looking for smoke and other signs that a wildfire might be imminent.
Two technicians climbed the fire station’s tower last week to install the camera, and it is already operational. Forest Technology Systems, which manufactures remote environmental monitoring equipment, had the camera installed, and Advanced Environmental Monitoring, a company that specializes in wildland surveillance, will do the monitoring.
You can view the FTS cameras at www.fts360overwatch.com.
An FTS camera has also been installed on Badger Mountain in Park County, and Mark Riggs, communication engineer with CORE Electric, said CORE was looking for another spot for a camera elsewhere on the U.S. 285 Corridor.
The U.S. Forest Service has a similar camera on Mestaa’ehehe Mountain in conjunction with Xcel Energy, and Rotary Wildfire Ready hopes Xcel will install a camera on Bear Mountain in Evergreen to provide even better coverage.
“This is a really big step in creating a more complete early-warning system for wildfires and will also provide visibility to the public,” said Cindy Latham with Rotary Wildfire Ready. “Our team is so grateful to CORE Electric for their tremendous advocacy for community safety. These systems are expensive to install and maintain, and CORE Electric is doing this as an exceptional public service.”
Riggs explained that the cameras cost between $5,000 and $7,000, and cost another $5,000 to install.
Creating a network of these cameras is important to keep the communities it serves safe, explained Brent Lewis, content creator at CORE Electric. He figured the camera could see 25 miles, and as more cameras are installed, they will be able to better pinpoint, for example, a plume of smoke.
For the past two years, Rotary Wildfire Ready has been evaluating wildfire early-alert systems that have been successfully implemented in other communities, Latham explained. The group hopes that for firefighters and first responders, the cameras mean more data more quickly, which significantly improves decision-making and response. For the public, the cameras provide significantly improved situational awareness to help improve evacuation and safety during wildfires.
“As we know, early warning is key in a wildfire,” said John Putt, a member of Rotary Wildfire Ready and a member of the Evergreen Fire/Rescue board of directors. “This camera will aid in providing more early warning to residents.”
CORE says it has worked with FTS to join the Rocky Mountain Pan-Tilt-Zoom Network, which operates a series of shared cameras that monitor for wildfires and other threats. The network includes more than a dozen cameras in three states. Most of the cameras are in Colorado, and about half of those monitor the Front Range.
“This is a big step,” Putt said. “Think of the view.”
He’s not just talking about the landscape.
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