The early detection of forest fires is a key part of the Bureau's overall effort. The sooner a suspicious smoke is located and units are dispatched for investigation lessens needless damage to homes and property, and lowers overall suppression costs.
Early detection is achieved by trained Bureau observers who staff the statewide network of 42 operating fire towers. From their high vantage points, observers utilize alidade tables (see cover), binoculars, and topographic maps to triangulate the precise location of any fire. This information is then given to local community fire departments or Bureau district personnel for prompt response.
The Bureau also uses pro-active, county-based fire patrols of forested areas during periods of high fire danger. These patrols assist cities and towns in prevention efforts and allow for the swift deployment of mobile equipment for suppression of fires during their incipient stage.
This system can be supplemented by contracted, fixed wing detection aircraft during periods of extreme fire danger.