Sonoma County is Using an AI Tool to Detect Wildfires

Californian wildfires are raging this year, and Sonoma County decided to use a Korean AI system developed by Alchera to register and extinguish fires rapidly.

January 2021 has been one of the driest Januaries in the history of the state. Because of this, the amount of wildfires is about five times higher this year. As of May 17, 2021, over 2,000 fires were recorded. It is estimated that the 2021 fire season is going to be dangerously destructive and it is going to be worse than the 2020 California fire season. As of June 11, 2021, twice as many acres have burned compared to the same period in 2020.

"We're the only ones I believe beta testing the AI technology. When the AI detects a column of smoke an alarm is going off on that giant media wall, the screen turns red. 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," comments KT McNulty, Executive Director of REDCOM, a 911 emergency medical and fire dispatch center.

A South Korean company named Alchera developed the AIIR system used in Sonoma County. It is widely used across Asia to track fires in airports, industrial utilities, etc. The tool is taught to recognize smoke at an early stage and send fire alerts before the hazard grows too big. The new smart software is layered over the existing Alert Wildfire network, a fire spotting consortium made up of utilities like Pacific Gas and Electric Company, state and local agencies, and others who have the proper equipment for spotting fires. The network includes over 800 cameras keeping an electronic eye on the fires. 

REDCOM recently logged about 60 alerts over just a week since the moment the new AI system officially went online last month.

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