▶️ Seen them? Oregon fire detection equipment thieves caught on tower video

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Wildfire detection in northeastern Jackson County, Oregon, is going to be a little harder after someone broke into a lookout tower and stole a fire detection camera equipment. The theft means a vital piece of Oregon’s grid to detect fires while they are still small is now missing.

The Oregon Department of Forestry released video of the thieves breaking into a fire lookout tower. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said it happened Sunday at 12:45 p.m.

“Unfortunately, we’re one detection camera site down in northeastern Jackson County after a few unwelcome visitors took the liberty of breaking into our lookout tower and helping themselves to our equipment,” ODF Southwest Oregon District posted on Facebook.

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ODF shared before and after images of what equipment was stolen and what the tower looks like now without them.

Fire lookout tower stolen equipment
Before and after photos of solar panels stolen from a fire lookout tower in northeastern Jackson County, Oregon in August 2022. (Credit: Oregon Department of Forestry)
Fire lookout tower equipment stolen
Before and after photos of electronic equipment stolen from a fire lookout tower in northeastern Jackson County, Oregon in August 2022. (Credit: Oregon Department of Forestry)

“What this means is – early fire detection in this area is now a little harder for us. Our camera detection system spans Jackson and Josephine counties, allowing our detection staff to monitor rural areas and report fires at a small size,” ODF continued.

The loss of the camera means it will be harder for ODF to spot small fires when they start. Getting resources there to stop the fires before they blow up will become harder.

As Central Oregon Daily News reported last week, crews in fire lookout towers and remote fire detection cameras are two of the key tools in spotting fires when they are small and easier to manage.

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ODF said it started re-ordering all the equipment including batteries, solar panels and more as soon as it found out what happened. But it says the equipment is hard to come by and shipping can take awhile.

“Getting the site back up and running is one of our top priorities, but in the meantime, we have firefighters out patrolling the area to make sure we’re still finding fires quickly and keeping them small,” ODF said.

Anyone who recognizes the people in the video, or who sees the equipment up for sale, is asked to contact the Jackson County Sheriff’s office at (541) 774-8333 and reference case number 22-4725.

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