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Meet California’s next wildfire lookout: You, thanks to an online network of cameras

Only you can prevent forest fires, as Smokey Bear says, and now you can help spot them, too — hopefully before they explode into California’s next devastating conflagration, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

An expanding network of cameras feeds video to the AlertWildfire.org site, where fire officials, utilities and ordinary people can keep an eye out for signs of trouble, The Marin Independent Journal reported.

Each video feed has a Twitter button allowing viewers to report possible fire sightings online, though Graham Kent, director of the University of Nevada, Reno, seismology lab advises viewers also to report possible fires to 911, The Chronicle reported.

The lab, along with the University of California, San Diego, and University of Oregon, operates the online network, The Independent Journal reported.

The cameras, placed on towers and atop mountains, can scan 5,000 square miles during daylight and up to 20,000 square miles at night for fires with “near-infrared capabilities,” The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

Dozens of cameras, most in the Bay Area, San Diego, Tahoe and Orange County areas, have gone online at AlertWildfire.org since July, The Chronicle reported.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed funding to add 100 more cameras to the network, along with other firefighting efforts, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The project also has received funding from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., The Press Democrat reported.

“The cameras aren’t intended to replace human fire lookouts, just to augment our ability to gather intelligence on an incident,” said Deputy Chief Mark Brown of the Marin County Fire Department, The Independent Journal reported. But researchers hope to someday add artificial intelligence capabilities to the network to help detect possible fires.

Flyover shows the destruction from the Camp Fire, California’s deadliest wildfire, in Paradise on Nov. 13, 2018.

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