Throughout the western United States, wildfires have burned through numerous counties, tearing through forests and homes, killing everything in their paths for miles and hours.
They have devastated communities and ripped apart families, terrified innocent animals and scorched precious earth.
And now, firefighters in various states, including California, are turning to artificial intelligence in an effort to spot fires – and perhaps stop them before they wreak deathly havoc.
John McCormick of the Wall Street Journal said in June 2021 that “fire detection is an emerging area of AI, with startups offering systems that can analyze data from mountaintop cameras as well as satellites and combinations from both.”
In 2021, numerous fire agencies began installing and testing these systems, designed to get ahead of devastation – and toward saving lives.
Historically, cameras and humans have been early detectors of wildfires, but since so many fires start in remote areas that are often masked and undetectable unless the person or camera is directly on the grounds, early stages of fires are easily missed.
AI, on the other hand, is significantly more powerful in its detection – because AI systems can watch and analyze feeds in real-time, fires can be identified and detected in a matter of minutes. Not when it’s too late.
What’s more, there are other AI systems that can be used in partnership with real-time fire detecting systems. Some of them are designed to actually predict the spread of wildfires.
There’s an organization called Alchera, which uses computer vision to analyze images from ALERTWildfire cameras. This form of AI detects smoke characteristics and its movements, and even knows how to identify smoke from fog or smoke. Although the AI system is advanced, a human still checks the findings of Alchera, validating them and manually sending alerts to the proper officials. The entire process, according to Alchera, takes under a minute.
Such systems have been called an “extra set of eyes,” trained to detect fires and send of alarms within six to ten minutes. With automatic alerts such as this, more lives are guaranteed to be saved.
And there’s even more than this.
There are other advances in technology, including computer vision models for facial recognition. They’re being applied to wildfire spotting, with cameras placed on mountaintop cell towers or similar tall structures, spanning the ground and rotating to capture still minutes each and every minute.