ICYMI: “As California Fires Worsen, Can AI Come to the Rescue?”

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: No other jurisdiction in the world comes close to California’s use of technology and innovation – including AI – to fight fires.

SACRAMENTO – Short answer: yes.

California is leveraging technologies like AI to fight fires faster and smarter, saving countless lives and communities from destruction.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, CAL FIRE recently launched a pilot program that uses AI to monitor live camera feeds and issues alerts if anomalies are detected. Already, the program has successfully alerted CAL FIRE to 77 fires before any 911 calls were made.

This program is made possible by record investments by Governor Newsom and the Legislature in wildfire prevention and response totaling $2.8 billion.


As California Fires Worsen, Can AI Come to the Rescue?

By Hayley Smith

Los Angeles Times

Just before 3 a.m. one night this month, Scott Slumpff was awakened by the ding of a text message.

“An ALERTCalifornia anomaly has been confirmed in your area of interest,” the message said.

Slumpff, a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, sprang into action. The message meant the agency’s new artificial intelligence system had identified signs of a wildfire with a remote mountaintop camera in San Diego County.

Within minutes, crews were dispatched to the burgeoning blaze on Mount Laguna — squelching it before it grew any larger than a 10-foot-by-10-foot spot.

Without the alert, “we wouldn’t have even known about the fire until the next morning, when people are out and about seeing smoke,” Slumpff said. “We probably would have been looking at hundreds of acres rather than a small spot.”

The rapid response was part of a new AI pilot project operated by Cal Fire in partnership with UC San Diego’s ALERTCalifornia system, which maintains 1,039 high-definition cameras in strategic locations throughout the state.

The AI constantly monitors the camera feeds in search of anomalies such as smoke, and alerts Cal Fire when it detects something. A red box highlights the anomaly on a screen, allowing officials to quickly verify and respond.

The project rolled out just two months ago to six Cal Fire emergency command centers in the state. But the proof of concept has already been so successful — correctly identifying 77 fires before any 911 calls were logged — that it will soon roll out to all 21 centers.

“The success of this project is the fires you never hear about,” said Phillip SeLegue, staff chief of fire intelligence with Cal Fire.

Read more here.