Rising wildfire risk. New AI ways to fight them are too.

The development of new artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to fight wildfires coincides with their growing threat. This summer, climate change-related wildfires have wreaked havoc on communities all over the world, killing numerous people and putting a tremendous strain on firefighters.

Consequently, there is a growing demand for innovative approaches, and this is where AI comes into play. Firefighters and startups are now using AI-enabled cameras to scan the horizon for smoke signals. In addition, a German company is constructing a network of satellites to detect fires from space, while Microsoft is utilizing AI models to predict the potential locations of future blazes.

As wildfires continue to escalate in size and intensity due to global warming, firefighters, utilities, and governments are racing to harness the power of AI technology. The implications of this cutting-edge technology have generated both apprehension and excitement, as it has the potential to revolutionize our lives. Nevertheless, despite the reliance on AI by overwhelmed first responders, human verification is still necessary to ensure the accuracy of the technology.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has recently begun testing an AI system that analyzes over 1,000 mountaintop camera feeds in order to identify anomalies and promptly alert emergency command centers. These centers then verify whether the anomaly is indeed smoke or another airborne substance.

This system significantly reduces fatigue among the staff, who previously had to monitor multiple screens and cameras, as it only prompts them to investigate when there is a potential fire or smoke.

The implementation of this system has already proven its effectiveness, as a battalion chief received a smoke alert during the night and was able to verify it using his cell phone. He immediately contacted a command center in San Diego, which dispatched first responders to the remote area.

The dispatchers acknowledged that without the alert, the fire would have grown much larger since it would not have been detected until the following morning. Pano AI, a startup based in San Francisco, employs a similar approach by installing cameras on cell towers to scan for smoke and notify customers such as fire departments, utility companies, and ski resorts.

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