GPS technology being used to prevent wildfires - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

GPS technology being used to prevent wildfires

PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Cutting down trees and thinning forests are two of the keys to protecting Arizona from raging wildfires, according to wildfire prevention experts.

However, the process can be slow, and getting crews to trim the right trees in the right spot is extremely cumbersome and expensive.

Pat Graham is executive director of  the Nature Conservancy of Arizona.

He said that they've come up with a way to speed up the process and be more effective using GPS tracking devices similar to the ones in cars and cell phones.

"By incorporating technology that didn't even exist 10 to 15 years ago, like tablet computers, GPS and cameras, we're able to program and keep track of the thinning that goes on," said Graham.

Graham told CBS 5 that they've figured out a way to put GPS units and cameras on wood cutters to help operators work faster, and eventually makes things easier for firefighters on the front line.

"The expectation is that within a couple years, we'll be able to program and direct the wood cutters to which trees to actually cut," said Graham.

The new technology allows one operator to thin about 20 acres a day, Graham said.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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