Image: John McColgan
As the California wildfires ravaged the Golden State, inhabitants of America’s west coast saw their property engulfed and homes annihilated, while also suffering hundreds of casualties. Just last August, two firefighters died after their vehicle was overrun by flames north of Los Angeles. Yet in the scorched and blackened aftermath of the forest fires, the startling truth is that all this damage, loss and destruction could have been prevented by a group of kids.
The key to combating wildfires ripping through bone dry forests and bringing about untold harm is detection. Where there’s smoke there’s fire is a saying that trips easily off the tongue, but with wildfires the tough reality is that the smoke itself is often out of sight. Detecting these potentially deadly blazes while they are still smouldering can help stop them reaching catastrophic proportions.
It was this basic principle of detection that got a team of young people in California thinking about how to reduce the soaring numbers of wildfires that have become an issue not just in their neck of the woods but around the globe – especially given the massive amount of CO2 that gets released into the air. In an age of web cams and camera phones, it’s perhaps small wonder that the answer was surveillance.