With a catastrophic drought gripping the Western United States, many people, policymakers, and first responders are bracing for a disastrous wildfire season. When it comes to wildfires, fast discovery is critical, and even a few minutes can be the difference between saving a home and losing it. ALERTWildfire is an artificial intelligence that assists in the detection of forest fires as soon as they begin.
ALERTWildfire employs a network of cameras mounted on towers strategically positioned throughout fire-prone areas. Images from these cameras are sent into an AI detection system, which instantly detects a growing fire. The system's 21 first testing locations are spread over Sonoma County, where the 37,000-acre Tubbs Fire in 2017 was the most devastating in California history.
Although the system utilizes AI to examine the tower pictures, every 10 minutes the system sends image updates from each tower to dispatchers at the county's fire emergency center to offer a layer of human validation. So far, AI fire alerts from ALERT Wildfire have been up to 10 minutes ahead of homeowner 911 calls.
The software, which was created by Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno, is growing more accurate with time. The AI system is still learning what flames look like and how to distinguish between smoke from a fire and steam from a geyser field, for example. Researchers believe that the system will need to "see" at least 70 real-world fires in order to fully comprehend the region's fire environment.
The program's inventors want to eventually install 850 ALERT Wildfire fire cameras throughout six Western states in order to dramatically reduce wildfire severity. They believe that, given enough time, AI can be trained to evaluate fire-prone terrain and burn scars to forecast which regions would burn that year.
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