Sonoma County, CA is now using artificial intelligence (AI) to aid in the early detection of wildfires.
At the REDCOM dispatch center – which covers Sonoma County – AI software has been overlaid on the existing Alert Wildfire network, a fire spotting consortium made up of utilities, state and local agencies, and others who have cameras in a position to spot fires. The network currently has more than 800 cameras, and the system is aided by professional and amateur fire spotters who monitor them on the network’s website. Historically – once smoke is spotted – a 911 call is made to alert responders.
REDCOM reports that they recently logged about 60 alerts over a one-week period since the AI officially went online, including one that beat the 911 report by a significant margin.
“The AI camera was able to pick up the smoke 10 minutes before her 911 call. So we had a 10-minute jump on a valid fire,” said KT McNulty of the REDCOM dispatch center.
The visual recognition AI was developed by the South Korean firm, Alchera, and is said to be the world’s first commercialized Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering for wildfire detection. Their software was originally developed to monitor anomalies and is found in diverse industries, such as airports, major industrial systems, and utilities. The company was able to teach the algorithm to quickly recognize smoke.
It’s hoped that the combined power of 911, camera crowdsourcing, and AI will all combine over time to combat the wildfires that seasonally plague the Bay Area.
Sam Wallis, the Community Alert & Warning Manager of Sonoma County, said “Sonoma County continues to invest in wildfire detection technology that will provide advanced smoke detection warning to emergency managers and first responders. As the field of artificial intelligence has advanced in sophistication, we are excited to add such a monitoring system to our alert and warning toolkit.”