Sonoma County invests in artificial intelligence technology to detect fires faster

Extreme wildfires can fuel tornadoes, creating erratic and dangerous conditions for firefighters. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images via The Conversation)

Sonoma County officials announced Wednesday they have invested in artificial intelligence to detect fires faster and to notify firefighters when fires are spotted.

The county will use part of a $2.7 million federal grant to purchase an artificial intelligence monitoring system that will use an existing network of cameras to better spot fires when they start, by integrating optical detection programs 24/7 that will send out email and text alerts.

The county approved a $300,000 contract this month with South Korea-based Alchera Inc. to implement the new system by May 1. Training and modifications are expected to take place through the summer months, and by November the system should be able to direct alerts without human intervention.

“This early detection technology will provide emergency managers and first responders with ’round-the-clock monitoring, a sophisticated addition we are excited to add to our alert and warning toolkit,” said Lynda Hopkins, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

Since the October 2017 Tubbs Fire, the county has partnered with other agencies to install cameras on existing radio communication towers to provide wildfire surveillance throughout California, according to a county press release. The ALERTWildfire system was developed and installed by a consortium of public and private entities and currently consists of 746 cameras around the state.

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