Experiment with live video from a fire via Periscope

Dudley Fire tree felling
Screen grab from Wildfire Today’s Periscope video March 4, 2016.

If you’re not familiar with the smart phone app Periscope, it makes it possible to broadcast to the internet a live video from your phone. The app is free to download and does not cost anything to stream the video. I tried it for the first time today from the Dudley Fire in Buffalo Gap, South Dakota.

The image above is a screen grab from the video as a faller from the U.S. Forest Service was cutting down a large cottonwood tree adjacent to a mobile home. You can view the video HERE, but I believe it goes away after 24 hours, so you’ll need to watch it before 10 a.m. MST on Saturday March 5, 2016.

It is interesting that a couple of seconds before the tree actually started to fall, the dozer, with the blade about 10 feet away, began moving toward the tree and raising the blade — as if he was going to catch it if it started to fall backwards toward the mobile home.

That was the second video I broadcast. I did the first one a few minutes before; it was a little rough, as I held my still camera in one hand and filmed with the phone in the other. Then at the end I had to figure out how to stop it, which took a while.

After you install Periscope on your phone you can follow us by searching for “wildfiretoday”. Optionally, you can be notified when someone you’re following is broadcasting live.

This app has a lot of potential for broadcasting live from a fire scene, a briefing, or a news conference.

More information:
Our original post on the Dudley Fire.
Additional photos of the Dudley Fire.

The emergence of Periscope and Twitter as a source for breaking news

In the last few years Twitter emerged as a source for obtaining information about breaking news. Then it was followed by Instagram and in the last few months, Periscope. And of course Facebook belongs in the list as well. In case you’re not familiar with Periscope, it is an app, or program, that can be installed on smart phones that makes it possible to very easily broadcast live video and audio from any location that has good, fast cell phone service. Viewers can interact with the photographer by texting questions that appear on the screen, and can indicate they appreciate the broadcast by tapping the screen which displays heart icons that float up and then off the screen. Some videographers answer the questions verbally.

Periscope has only been around since early this year. It was first available on Android devices in March after the app was acquired by Twitter for $100 million. We have seen some wildfire organizations use it, including CAL FIRE (“CAL FIRE PIO Berlant”) for daily situation reports, and the Sacramento Fire Department (“Sacfire Pio”) which routinely transmits live from incident scenes. But yesterday it came of age — even though it is only a few months old. A fire photographer, EPN564, broadcast live six times from the Valley Fire, about 70 miles north of San Francisco. The high quality video that showed active fire, including homes burning, was striking. There were probably other journalists who also provided video from the fire.

Social media is not a perfect source for news, of course. Citizen “journalists” do not have fact checkers, and occasionally misinformation gets distributed. And there will be those that criticize real-time video of burning homes, but when a news helicopter transmits live video of the same scene, you rarely hear anyone saying that it should be censored.

Below is an excerpt from an article published today at Holistic Marketing Concepts. The author appears to be Tiffany Ann Brown, writing about the revolution in how we are obtaining breaking news, and specifically, news from the devastating Valley Fire last night:


“I had quite an interesting night, watching live coverage of a massive fire unfolding in Lake County, California … which also happens to be my husband’s hometown. But rather than seeing anything at all about it on the evening news, I received nearly 100% of my information from Twitter and Periscope. While watching the live coverage on Periscope, I finally experienced firsthand what so many in both business and marketing circles have been talking about for so long: digital (or social) darwinism in action.

It was indeed a defining moment for me, catching live video streams on Periscope, with some of those streams coming directly from various firefighters’ iPhones. Meanwhile, I found it delightful that the general public (and various people tuning in from around the globe) were encouraging them along every step of the way with words of support and concern as these periscopers did their best to share what was happening with viewers live and in real time. In one case, we watched a stream as the number of viewers started at below 100, and within a few minutes grew to over 1,500 viewers.

Not only was this in-the-moment, informative news that I wasn’t getting from any mainstream media sites, but rather than instilling a sense of fear and drama (as is often the case with front-line news reporting), the overall feeling evoked a sense of realism, as well as support, encouragement, and care from the community based on the sentiment of the comments that were filtering through the live chat. ..”


Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Barbara.