Southern Oregon gets its first ALERTWildfire camera

After over two years of planning, Southern Oregon’s first ALERTWildfire camera has been installed in Cave Junction.

The Alert Wildfire logo.

This article was first published on KTVL-TV on August 10th.

After more than two years of planning, Southern Oregon’s first ALERTWildfire camera has been installed in Cave Junction. The camera will allow the public direct access to its live feed to help monitor fire activity in the Illinois Valley.

The fire detection camera was installed Tuesday. The Rogue Valley Council of Governments purchased the camera to increase the communities emergency preparedness.

“We have a serious fire risk in heavily populated areas, the more information we can give the public, the better off we all are,” Michael Cavallaro, the former director for the Rogue Valley Council of Governments said.

The technology allows the public to view any fire activity in their area and can be used during the day and night. The camera is the first to be installed in the region but there are more than 800 throughout the nation, with most of them being in California.

Cavallaro, who began the process of bringing the cameras to the region more than two years ago, said the project hit home for home and it was vital for him to make it a reality.

“I have had to evacuate my home in Central Point, twice in the last three years because of fires, and I know how frustrating it is for a member of the public to not have access to current information about what size of the fire, where is it, how it's moving, should I evacuate or not,” Cavallaro explained.

He said the camera was installed after the agency partnered with the Oregon Hazards Lab at the University of Oregon.

Professor Douglas Toomey, the director of the lab explained how vital the tool is for residents in the area after the 2020 Fall wildfires devastated the region.

“As your communities know all too well, alerts to the public are very difficult, and one of the aspects to this public-facing camera system is that if you have an internet connection, or a cell phone, a smartphone, you can see what on the cameras you can see in real-time what’s happening in your region," Toomey said.

The camera’s live feed is free of charge to residents, but Ann Marie Alfrey, the current executive director of Rogue Valley Council of Governments explained that the cost of the system is far from it.

“There is an ongoing cost of $13,500 per year to keep the cameras running," Alfrey said. “We are going to try and partner with some private entities out there to keep these cameras up and going.”

She said the first camera was able to be installed after Jean Ann Miles, the city council president for the City of Cave Junction, reached out to a local resident for help.

Miles said she spoke with Cameron Camp, the owner of Illinois Valley Data Center who owns a cell tower in the city.

“Public-private partnerships make all the difference in the world for our citizens to be better prepared,” Miles said.

Camp said it is his honor to help his community by providing another vital emergency resource.

“We are starting something here today, that you’re going to be able to look at in the coming weeks, it’s going to really help provide a sense of security that people are doing something and we're not just going to let it burn," Camp said. “You’d be surprised what you could do if work together with the right people and you don’t have to have a lot of money to get it done.”

The live feed from the Cave Junction ALERTWildfire camera is expected to begin broadcasting by the end of the week.

Alfrey said that the Rogue Valley Council of Governments also purchased another two cameras which she hopes to have installed in the coming months.

She added that they are hoping to place one of the cameras on Roxy Ann Peak and another in the White City region.

She said anyone interested in partnering with the agency to help place the future cameras should contact her directly.

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