The nation’s most wildfire-prone state is teaming up with an artificial intelligence platform that “never sleeps” and can detect potential blazes before they escalate into chaos.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) is partnering with University of California San Diego’s ALERTCalifornia, a public safety program that studies natural disasters, to test an AI program of $24 million.
“We have an automated system that never sleeps, never rests, monitoring North Bay 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Cal Fire Napa-Lake-Sonoma Unit Chief Mike Marcucci told Fox 2.
California is the most wildfire-threatened state in the country, with 7,396 recorded wildfires in 2021 alone and 2.5 million acres burned. The Golden State recorded 7,447 other wildfires last year, which burned a total of 331,360 acres.
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The 2018 Camp Fire in California was the deadliest and most destructive in state history, killing 85 people and injuring 17 civilians and firefighters.
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The new AI trial will include collaboration with fire units in San Bernardino, Sonoma-Lake-Napa, Madera-Mariposa-Merced, Nevada Yuba Placer, Shasta-Trinity and San Luis Obispo, according to Cal Fire.
The program will deploy more than 1,000 high-definition pan-and-tilt zoom cameras across the state that will constantly monitor for smoke or other signs that a fire has started.
“From the Oregon border to the Mexican border and everywhere in between,” Marcucci said, “cameras are being added as we speak.”
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The high-tech cameras can capture images from 60 miles away on clear days and 120 miles away on clear nights, thanks to its near-infrared night vision.
“They’ve come up on all kinds of different platforms,” Marcucci told NBC Bay Area. “They can rotate 360 degrees. They can see at night. We’re working on infrared technology right now. They can zoom out great distances. Pretty sharp images come out of it. They can also see a pretty wide area, too. .”
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ALERTCalifornia has trained an artificial intelligence system to detect anomalies on the camera feeds, such as heat, fire or smoke, while differentiating itself from other natural particles in the air, such as smog or smoke. haze. Emergency centers are alerted as soon as an anomaly is detected, allowing humans to quickly investigate if the situation is a real threat.
“By harnessing the power of AI, we have the opportunity to revolutionize our firefighting strategies by analyzing large amounts of data, predicting fire behavior and providing real-time insights to firefighters in the field. “said Cal Fire in its announcement of the trial. .
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California has also embraced drone technology in recent years to help fight fires, deploying the autonomous flying machines to monitor where fires are spreading and the location of trapped individuals.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has touted the state’s use of cutting-edge firefighting technology, saying last month it would protect “more Californians from wildfires.”
“In just five years, California’s wildfire response has undergone a technological revolution. We are mobilizing cutting-edge technology in our efforts to fight wildfires, exploring how innovations such as artificial intelligence can help us help identify threats faster and deploy resources smarter,” Newsom said. in June. “And with the largest firefighting air force in the world and more firefighters on the ground than ever before, we are protecting more Californians from wildfires. While these resources will help protect our communities, Californians must stay vigilant for what could be an intense wildfire season this year.”
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Other states frequently threatened by wildfires are also taking steps to adopt AI to help monitor smoke and heat, including Washington State announcing in May that it would deploy 21 camera stations. Colorado is also installing AI-powered cameras in San Miguel County to help monitor fires.