The ForestWatch Wildfire Detection and Monitoring System is changing the way governments and commercial landowners discover and respond to fire.

When people are first introduced to our system, they sometimes mistakenly refer to ForestWatch as an ‘automatic’ or ‘automated’ camera system.

We believe the more accurate description is ‘augmentation for lookouts’.

Here’s why.

ForestWatch cameras use an algorithm that detects smoke, alerts an operator and determines the exact location for accurate, efficient dispatching.

ForestWatch allows one trained operator, with similar skillsets and passion as those who occupy lookout towers in the forest, to monitor multiple cameras – and thousands of acres – at a time.

You could say ForestWatch gives one operator a dozen sets of eyes.



As our customers become more educated about our systems and services, they understand that we are not offering an ‘automatic’ service.

ForestWatch requires trained operators to make the final determination between false alarms and true smokes. Human interaction is one of the things that make ForestWatch so effective.

Imagine the chaos and waste that would come with a system that sent an alarm every time it detected a possible fire. Surprisingly, those automatic systems exist.

We are aware of one governmental fire dispatch center that receives 30,000 calls per year from people reporting fires. It boggles the mind to think of the resources that must be wasted on efforts to verify those calls.

That’s not ForestWatch.



Augmented means that an operator is looking at the images coming in from the cameras in locations that are miles away and could be miles apart. The ForestWatch software is designed to enhance what the lookout operators used to do from a tower, and to be able to do it more efficiently and safely.

But it still takes the human element to respond to an alert, determine whether it is a true smoke, and decide what resources are going to be sent out.

The software augments the images – enhancing the view – to help the operator better identify an actual smoke, versus a dust storm, a fog bank or a cloud of exhaust.

It still takes human interaction to make the determination.



ForestWatch is an upgrade over unaided human detection in the following ways:

  • Awareness – Enhanced algorithms alert the operator to the actual smoke, allowing them to be more aware.
  • Focus – One trained operator can cover the same area as 10-15 lookouts and do it from a centralized office that serves as the detection center.
  • Economy – Cameras run 24/7. Lookouts are still effective in many ways, but people need to sleep. The camera never sleeps and can be operated 12 months of the year.



Many agencies rely on cell phone reporting by the general public.

When someone calls, even when a lookout calls in, their ability to provide an accurate location for the fire is limited. They have to put a spotter plane up or send a ground unit out there. That costs money every time and even the most routine deployment puts people at risk.

The camera system allows an operator to zoom in, do a much more defined verification before either dispatching someone to the scene or declaring it a false alarm.

As soon as the operator clicks on the smoke, the system produces a latitude and longitude and bearing from the camera.

In most cases, with that information, they can get crews within ¼ mile of the fire. That pinpoint location also provides the operator with jurisdictional information, whether a burn permit was issued for that fire and if any water sources are nearby, and where structures may be.

The visuals from the camera also provide details such as fire intensity, weather conditions, wind direction and possible fuel sources.

One classic case in our area is a plume of what appears to be smoke coming from a mill. That cloud is visible from the interstate, but the mill itself is hidden behind a hill. That call comes in on a regular basis. Our local agency has marked that location as a known source of false alarms so they are not continually dispatching resources out there.

It is important for anyone just getting to know the ForestWatch system to learn more about the details of how it works. The capabilities are world-class, but the price tag is surprisingly affordable.

Interested in learning more about ForestWatch from EVS? Visit the EVS website; Send an email to Dave Gilding:; or reach out to Troy Mullins, Director of Sales and Marketing: