Tahoe Summit: A New View of Fire Prevention at The Lake

Photo courtesy of the University of Nevada, Reno, captured from the Lake Tahoe north shore AlertTahoe fire cam.

By Don Dike-Anukam

The air was thick with smoke and ash from the number of conflagrations ravaging much of California. That was the scene at Tuesday’s 22nd Annual Lake Tahoe Summit at Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park (Sand Harbor).

The pollution provided a painfully direct backdrop for this annual coming together of Nevada and California political leaders, environmentalists, scientists, and community stakeholders on how to keep the fragile ecosystem and water clarity of the crown jewel of the Sierra’s Lake Tahoe shining forever crystal blue.

This year’s event was hosted by U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.). In attendance was U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, who gave the keynote speech and was followed by members of the Nevada and California delegations, including U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), U.S. Congressman Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), U.S. Congressman John Garamendi (D-Ca.) and Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Ca.)

Scientists, residents, and environmental enthusiasts met to discuss the current status of ecosystem of Lake Tahoe. Dr. Graham Kent of the University of Nevada’s Seismological Laboratory gave a clear view or a viable solution in the otherwise smoky day.

Kent introduced his project, a fire detection camera network called “AlertTahoe,” to address one the greatest dangers to the basin’s ecosystem.

“The cameras give (responders) intel immediately, improving the chances of putting out the fires more quickly,” Kent said. “Dispatch can know immediately, in 20 seconds, what the fire situation looks like, and fire managers can scale up or down without delays for guessing or waiting for spotter planes or helicopters for immediate knowledge.”

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Fire managers can manually rotate, tilt, pan, and zoom the cameras that span the Tahoe basin. The network tracked 240 western wildfires in 2017, and the system has been used successfully by firefighting managers for four fire seasons for early detection, to spot and track fires, and for quicker, cheaper, and more tactical response and suppression.

“We must continue funding scientists and researchers like Graham Kent doing work here in Lake Tahoe,” said Senator Masto. “Thank you for helping us better understand and keep this region safe.”

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Heller agreed.

“Over 1.2 million acres of land were devastated by wildfires in Nevada last year alone, and as Nevada’s firefighters and the Bureau of Land Management continue to battle deadly blazes across Nevada, I’m fighting to make sure we have the necessary resources to detect and prevent future fires,” he said. “I welcome the Department of Agriculture’s $226,000 to support the AlertTahoe Fire Monitoring and Early Detection Warning System, which has helped stop hundreds of potentially devastating fires over the past few years.”

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