CAL FIRE using A.I. to help prevent the spread of wild fire

Whether you are a firm believer in how (or if) artificial intelligence should be used in our daily lives, if you live in or around the Tahoe Basin you can probably agree that just about anything that can be done to combat wildfires is worth it – even more so if that effort is to detect the fire before it can spread.

In a video posted to CAL FIRE’s social channels on Monday, September 11, CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Robert Carvalho explained how they are exploring the usage of A.I. to do this very thing.

As part of a pilot project in partnership with University of San Diego’s ALERTCalifornia System, Carvahlo went on to note that the A.I. constantly monitors more than 1,000 camera feeds in search of anomalies (such as smoke).

“The system alerts CAL FIRE when it detects something, allowing us to quickly respond and verify,” said Carvahlo. “Cameras have already identified dozens of fires before any 9-1-1 calls were logged.”

The project rolled out a few months ago to several CAL FIRE emergency command centers in the state, including the command center in Grass Valley, which oversees the California counties of Nevada, Yuba and Placer.

According to CAL FIRE 9-1-1 Communications Operator Chris Africa, he’s personally seen three to four instances of the A.I. identifying fires over the past two months, including one last week in Grass Valley.

“The A.I. detected it and we got a good hit from two cameras,” said Africa. “We started ground suppression before any 9-1-1 calls came in.”

While Carvahlo noted in the video that the project has been so successful that it will roll out to all 21 emergency command centers in the state, Africa was quick to add that it doesn’t replace the valuable information they still receive from 9-1-1 calls.

“Things like how big the fire is, if there are any structures threatened, sometimes even who started it, that’s all really valuable,” Africa added.

Although this technology can simply be seen as the evolution of detection and validation, it’s quite evident to communities throughout the Sierra that there can never be too much when it comes to preventing the spread of any type of fire – especially wild fire.

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.