A new closed-circuit camera system to help prevent forest fires at Torres del Paine will be effective in March.
Five surveillance cameras set up by the National Forest Corporation (Conaf) will be switched on in March at Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park as part of a bigger project aiming to improve security and prevent forest fires.
The cameras, designed by researchers from the Universidad de la Frontera, operate with solar panels and are able to detect a person from up to 15 miles away. Funded by the regional government, the installation of the cameras cost nearly US$350,000.
The surveillance system, which is still being tested, covers 80 percent of the park’s 600,000 acres, and places priority on famous parts of the park such as Lake Paine, Lake Grey, Lake Pehoé and Laguna Azul.
The other 20 percent of the park will remain without surveillance.
“To operate, the system requires a telephone signal, and this very mountainous part of the park does not get any,” said Juan Ivanovich, regional head of the department of wildlife protection areas, referring to the “Paso de los Perros.”
The installation of this new security system aims to improve the surveillance in the park after a fire caused by a 23-year-old Israeli tourist destroyed almost 40,000 acres at the end of 2011.
“We already had two cameras before the 2011 fire,” said Ivanovich. ” We can now watch the park more efficiently thanks to an increase in our workforce. We have 30 permanent rangers and 83 others who only work from October through March, when the influx of visitors is greatest.”
“We are putting in place a modern security system, allowing a greater spatial and temporal coverage,” said René Cifuentes, Conaf’s regional head of the fire management department. “It includes an increase in the firefighting equipment, more information available to the public, as well as tougher penalties for those who don’t respect the rules of the park on the use of fire.”
On Feb. 2, a law increased the sanctions for people who make fires or use fire sources in Chile’s protected areas, going from fines of 440,000 pesos (almost US$1,000) to five years in prison.
The park is one of the country’s main tourist attractions, with 150,000 visitors passing through in 2012 alone. According to park statistics, Torres del Paine is on track to surpass that number this year after experiencing a 9 percent jump in visitors in January compared to the same month last year.
The park is open all year long, except for the mountain circuit, which closes in the winter.
By Manon Paulic (email@example.com)
Copyright 2013 – The Santiago Times