New cameras keep electronic eye on Western wildfires

ELDORADO NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. – A growing network of online cameras installed on forested mountaintops is changing the way crews fight fires by allowing early detection that triggers quicker, cheaper and more tactical suppression.

The network of roughly 20 high-definition cameras being installed around the Lake Tahoe region can pan, tilt and zoom into fires. They can rotate 360 degrees. And the cameras even have night vision, to supplement human lookouts that only work during daylight hours.

Fire officials say the cameras will augment — and not replace — human fire spotters who climb high towers armed with only a radio and binoculars, scanning the forest for faraway smoke.

They hope to install the internet-ready cameras throughout California and other Western states.