Wildfires are characterized by being spontaneous, unregulated, and uncertain in their trajectory. Their manner and intensity hinge on a blend of elements including weather conditions, accessible combustible materials, and the geographical context. Managing wildfires proves to be an intricate task for governments, often requiring external assistance to address their challenges effectively.
The firefighters in California are using artificial intelligence (AI) to help spot wildfires. The system will stream video from over 1,000 strategically positioned cameras across the state into a machine that will warn first responders when it is time to mobilise.
In addition to the camera network, and in response to increasingly frequent and severe climate-driven disasters, ALERTCalifornia is prioritising novel data collection and research.
The engineers at the University of California San Diego developed ALERTCalifornia by using AI from DigitalPath, a company based in Chico, California.
The website noted that ALERTCalifornia provides “state-of-the-art technology that supports data-driven decisions to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters”.
As per the website, ALERTCalifornia is based at the University of California San Diego. It is a public safety program working to understand wildfires and other natural hazards. It also aims to help the authorities to determine short and long-term impacts on people and the environment to inform management decisions.
As reported by the news agency Reuters, Cal Fire said with people asleep and darkness concealing the smoke, it could have spread into a raging wildfire.
However, AI notified a fire captain, who dispatched approximately 60 firefighters, including seven engines, two bulldozers, two water tankers, and two hand crews. The fire was extinguished in 45 minutes.
Cal Fire offered further examples of AI alerting fire captains to fire before a 911 call was placed since the AI programme began on July 10, albeit it did not yet have a thorough report.
As quoted by Reuters, Suzann Leininger, who is a Cal Fire intelligence specialist in El Cajon, just east of San Diego, said: “Its 100% applicable throughout anywhere in the world, especially now that we’re experiencing a lot larger and more frequent fire regimes and with climate change.”
In a presser released on May 3, Neal Driscoll, director of ALERTCalifornia and geoscientist at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said: “The program will spawn invaluable research and mitigation plans that will increase the state’s resiliency towards the new extreme fire risk.”
“Data acquired in the highest fire-threat regions will significantly empower firefighters, first responders, legislators, city planners and scientists for years to come,” Driscoll had added.