Home Technology AI Is the New Firefighter: How California Is Using Technology to Prevent Wildfires

AI Is the New Firefighter: How California Is Using Technology to Prevent Wildfires

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AI Is the New Firefighter: How California Is Using Technology to Prevent Wildfires

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When it comes to fighting and preventing wildfires, California has been at the forefront of the effort. The ALERTCalifornia program at the University of California San Diego and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) are working together to test an artificial intelligence program that has a price tag of $24 million. Over a thousand high-definition pan-tilt-zoom cameras will be installed across the state as part of the program, and they will all be set to continuously scan the area for signs of smoke or fire.

Camera feeds are analyzed by an artificial intelligence system developed by Cal Fire and ALERTCalifornia that can tell the difference between regular air particles and abnormal ones caused by heat, fire, or smoke. When something out of the ordinary occurs, the appropriate authorities are notified immediately so that they can assess how serious the threat really is. Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to drastically alter firefighting strategies by analyzing massive amounts of data, predicting fire behavior, and providing real-time insights to firefighters in the field.

Recently, “drones,” or unmanned aerial vehicles, have been used in California’s firefighting operations. These vehicles help track the progress of fires and get help to those who are trapped. Governor Gavin Newsom has spoken highly of the use of innovative technology in firefighting, saying that it will help to save lives.

Wildfires have been a problem for California for decades, and they appear to be getting worse. In 2021, wildfires in California destroyed 2.5 million acres across 7,396 square miles. In 2017, there were 7,447 fires that burned a total of 331,360 acres. With at least 85 lives lost, the Camp Fire of 2018 was California’s deadliest and costliest natural disaster in state history. In total, 17 people were hurt (including bystanders and rescue workers).

According to recent studies, many California counties may have inpatient healthcare facilities that are vulnerable to wildfires. The study found that nearly a quarter of the state’s inpatient healthcare facilities are situated in areas with a high or very high risk of wildfires.

Cal Fire and ALERTCalifornia are teaming up with fire departments in San Bernardino, Sonoma-Lake-Napa, Madera-Mariposa-Merced, Nevada-Yuba-Placer, Shasta-Trinity, and San Luis Obispo to test out an AI system.

The program’s cameras, equipped with near-infrared night vision, can see up to 120 miles on clear nights and 60 miles on clear days. Cal Fire’s Napa-Lake-Sonoma Unit Chief Mike Marcucci said, “They’re mounted on all sorts of different platforms.” They have 360-degree arcs of rotation. They don’t seem to mind the pitch black. They are developing cutting-edge infrared technology here. Their field of vision is greatly enhanced. The final product is extremely clear and detailed pictures. The area they can see is quite large.

More cameras will be added to the system over the course of the program’s duration, allowing for full coverage of the state from the Oregon border to the Mexican border. The program’s automated nature ensures that it will constantly monitor for fires and promptly alert the appropriate authorities should one be detected.

Artificial intelligence has enormous potential as a tool for controlling and avoiding forest fires. AI can improve wildfire response by analyzing large datasets, making predictions about fire behavior, and providing real-time insights to firefighters.

Wildfires can be detected earlier with the help of artificial intelligence, giving firefighters more time to extinguish the blazes. Cal Fire and the ALERTCalifornia program use high-tech cameras to spot fires as soon as they start to prevent them from getting out of hand.

The use of AI in the fight against wildfires is not unique to California. In May, Washington state announced it would set up 21 camera stations with AI technology to aid in monitoring for smoke and heat. Cameras equipped with artificial intelligence to monitor for forest fires are also being installed in San Miguel County, Colorado.

The benefits of using AI to fight wildfires are huge, but the practice is just getting started. More and more governments and NGOs will likely adopt AI to help with fire prevention and suppression as the technology advances.

In conclusion, using AI to combat fires is a promising new strategy that could significantly enhance our ability to put out future wildfires. AI can improve wildfire response by analyzing large datasets, making predictions about fire behavior, and providing real-time insights to firefighters. Other states are beginning to use similar technology to monitor for smoke and heat, with California serving as a pioneer in the use of artificial intelligence to combat wildfires. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the fight against wildfires is likely to increase as the technology improves and more states and organizations adopt it.

First reported on Fox News

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the ALERTCalifornia program?

A: The ALERTCalifornia program is a collaboration between the University of California San Diego and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). It aims to test an artificial intelligence program designed to detect and prevent wildfires in California.

Q: How does the AI program work?

A: The program utilizes over a thousand high-definition cameras installed across the state. These cameras constantly scan the area for signs of smoke or fire. The camera feeds are analyzed by an artificial intelligence system developed by Cal Fire and ALERTCalifornia. The AI system can differentiate between regular air particles and abnormal ones caused by heat, fire, or smoke. When an anomaly is detected, the appropriate authorities are immediately notified.

Q: What are the benefits of using AI in firefighting?

A: AI has the potential to revolutionize firefighting strategies. It can analyze large amounts of data, predict fire behavior, and provide real-time insights to firefighters in the field. By enabling earlier detection of wildfires, AI provides more time for firefighters to respond and contain the blaze, ultimately improving firefighting effectiveness and increasing the chances of preventing fires from spreading.

Q: How are drones used in firefighting?

A: Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, have been employed in California’s firefighting operations. They assist in tracking the progress of fires and locating individuals who may be trapped. These drones provide valuable situational awareness and aid in the coordination of firefighting efforts.

Q: Why is California particularly vulnerable to wildfires?

A: California has a long history of wildfires due to factors such as dry climate, strong winds, and a significant amount of vegetation that can act as fuel. Additionally, factors like climate change and human activities have contributed to the increasing severity and frequency of wildfires in the state.

Q: What is the current situation regarding healthcare facilities and wildfires in California?

A: Recent studies indicate that many healthcare facilities in California are at risk from wildfires. Nearly a quarter of the state’s inpatient healthcare facilities are located in areas with a high or very high risk of wildfires. This highlights the need for advanced technologies and strategies to protect these critical facilities during fire emergencies.

Q: Are other states using AI for wildfire detection?

A: Yes, other states are also embracing AI technology to assist in detecting and monitoring wildfires. For example, Washington state has deployed camera stations equipped with AI to monitor for smoke and heat. San Miguel County in Colorado is also installing cameras with AI capabilities for wildfire surveillance.

Q: How will the AI program in California be expanded?

A: The program will gradually expand by adding more cameras across the entire state, from the Oregon border to the Mexican border. This expansion aims to achieve full coverage and continuous monitoring for fires. The program’s automated nature ensures constant vigilance and immediate alerts to authorities upon fire detection.

Q: What is the potential future impact of AI on wildfire prevention and suppression?

A: The use of AI in fighting wildfires is still in its early stages, but it holds significant potential. As the technology advances, AI can further improve wildfire prevention by analyzing large datasets, predicting fire behavior, and providing real-time insights to firefighters. It is expected that more governments and organizations will adopt AI to enhance fire prevention and suppression efforts as the benefits become more evident.

Featured Image Credit: Unsplash

John Boitnott

John Boitnott is a news anchor at ReadWrite. Boitnott has worked at TV News Anchor, print, radio and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s an advisor at StartupGrind and has written for BusinessInsider, Fortune, NBC, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and Venturebeat. You can see his latest work on his blog, John Boitnott

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