The Earth Breathes – A week in the West

Gary Yost, member 56,542, recently completed The Earth Breathes – A Week in the West, a new film that transforms fire prevention cameras into a showcase of the West’s fragile beauty.

A network of cameras running 24 hours a day atop hundreds of remote peaks in the American
West, designed to detect wildfires, also reveals the dazzling beauty of a land crying out for

For the first time, a new short film stitches together time-lapse photographs from these
cameras—established in a system ingeniously designed by middle school students in 2008—and
brings a new perspective to a fragile ecosystem.

The Earth Breathes showcases a way of using AI-based image processing tools to repurpose the
disaster-focused network, revealing remote, uninhabited mountaintops in a way that’s never been
recorded before, and set to music that transforms it into a meditative journey for the heart and soul.

The film uses as its source material pictures from the ALERTWildfire system of over 700 cameras
spanning some of the West’s most breathtaking, yet vulnerable landscapes. In 2008, a team of kids
from Northern California known as “the Forest Guards” won a global STEM competition
sponsored by Lego for coming up with a way to spot forest fires using cameras—an idea that,
with backing from Sony, government, universities, utilities and others grew into the
ALERTWildfire system.

The system makes its images available to anyone with an Internet connection, and average
citizens have used it to spot wildfires far earlier than had been possible, a critical activity in an era
in which the West has already seen some of history’s most devastating conflagrations.

Now, anyone with a screen can experience the West’s majestic yet tenuous beauty and join the
Forest Guards as caretakers of our planet by visiting the ALERTWildfire FAQ and following
instructions for locating your region and the real-time time-lapse clips.

These cameras are about much more than forest fires. Their continuous surveillance creates a
unique real-time record of the remarkable climate dance that takes place between earth and sky.

About the filmmaker: Gary Yost has won awards for his groundbreaking films which have garnered millions of views online, including A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout and Hallelujah. His immersive VR film about the pandemic Inside COVID19 was nominated for a 2021 Emmy. More at

About ALERTWildfire: ALERTWildfire is a consortium of The University of Nevada, Reno, University of California San Diego, and the University of Oregon providing fire cameras and tools to help firefighters and first responders discover and monitor fires, plan firefighting
strategies and aid evacuations.

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