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The Future of Technology and Wildfires

The Future of Technology and Wildfires

We've come across initiatives that utilize available technology to help identify, predict and manage wildfires. Although in their early stages or in test mode, the process has begun.

At the end of March, the California Public Utilities Commission held their first wildfire technology summit in Sacramento. Yup, think about it, their first technology summit - in 2019! It was a forum to share ideas, information and data. Some of the points mentioned in an article by were:

  • San Diego Gas and Electric plans to utilize an algorithm that detects a fault and shuts off power before a line hits the ground.
  • San Diego Gas & Electric plans to deploy artificial intelligence to utilize millions of data points to identify risky fire conditions. They currently utilize high definition pan tilt cameras to identify dangerous conditions.
  • PG&E intends to install 600 cameras, and by 2022, intend to have 1,300 weather stations up and running. Currently there are 215.

Additionally, social media data is being used to help understand how and when people evacuate and when they return home. Facebook's disaster map initiative provides location data and safety check information which helps identify how large populations are moving. The challenge is using this data to identify patterns and behavior and ultimately better manage evacuations. A recent article in Lake County News discusses how one researcher is hoping to utilize this data.

In order to better predict wildfire potential, WIFIRE is a system developed at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California San Diego. Their "artificial intelligence software examines high-resolution satellite imagery to predict the combustibility of the vegetation surrounding a fire, then incorporates that information into its predictions" according to an article in Time Magazine. The effort is supported and utilized by the LA Fire Department, Los Angeles County FD, Ventura County FD and Orange County FD.