Spotting wildfires with Axis

Nevada Seismological Laboratory deploys Axis network cameras as early detection system for national and local firefighting services

“A big advantage the Axis cameras have over a ranger just sitting in the tower with a pair of binoculars is that these cameras can see the near infrared glow coming off smoke, something that’s undetectable by the human eye.” David Slater, Networking Specialist at the Nevada Seismological Laboratory, University of Nevada, Reno.


With record drought conditions in California and Nevada, the number of wildfires continues to escalate. Knowing that early detection could save countless acres of cherished landscapes, while saving millions of dollars in property damage and potentially lives, the National Seismological Laboratory (NSL) at the University of Nevada, Reno, set out to create a sophisticated network of high-definition IP video cameras to help fire spotters see beyond the limitations of the human eye.


Working in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service, NSL began deploying a series of Axis pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) HD-resolution network cameras on mountaintops and fire towers across the states of Nevada and Eastern California. These cameras stream the video to various incident command centers through high-speed microwave radios supported by an array of solar-powered batteries. The video is also posted to the NSL web site where can be viewed live and in time-lapse mode by various agencies and the public at large.


Using time-lapse views of camera footage, fire spotters can easily discern the difference between a dust cloud and a smoke plume. At night, the near-IR sensitivity of the cameras help fire spotters distinguish the difference between car headlights and the unique flicker of a fire. Through this early detection system, NSL has provided firefighting services the timely information they need to quickly marshal the appropriate resources and combat blazes before they spread.

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