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New wildfire detection camera will help keep tabs on McKenzie River Valley

Crews mount a camera on an EWEB communications tower in the upper McKenzie River Valley
Adam Spencer
Crews mount a camera on an EWEB communications tower in the upper McKenzie River Valley

Emergency responders and members of the public will be able to keep better tabs on potential wildfires in the McKenzie River Valley thanks to a new wildfire detection camera that goes online in July.

The new camera is mounted on a 190-foot tall communications tower owned and operated by the Eugene Water and Electric Board. It’s part of a network of more than 700 remotely operated wildfire detection cameras across the western United States, including about two dozen in Oregon.

The cameras have two purposes, said Nick Maggio, Assistant Director for Wildfire Technologies at the Oregon Hazards Lab at the University of Oregon.

“One, it’s to provide first responders with increased information and insight during an event," he said. "But the second is to crowdsource fire detection. It’s to allow the public to take a hand in watching the cameras.”

The new camera is on the edge of the area that burned during 2020’s Holiday Farm Fire. It's meant to "provide us with increased information and perhaps some early warning and detection should another event occur out in that area," said Maggio.

The camera can be rotated 360-degrees, but only emergency responders and wildfire managers will have the ability to control the camera's movements and access a high-definition live video feed. Members of the public can view still photos that refresh every 15 seconds or so, said Maggio.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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