As the state heads into an intense wildfire season, California is turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies to combat fires.

The 2023 wildfire season is predicted to be particularly intense due to wet conditions earlier in the year, resulting in more vegetation throughout the state. To better combat dangerous fires, the state has built up more tech, firefighters, and aircraft for wildfires. Specifically, the state is deploying AI, satellites, cameras, drones, and real-time intelligence to fight fire faster and smarter.

“In just five years, California’s wildfire response has seen a tech revolution. We’re enlisting cutting-edge technology in our efforts to fight wildfires, exploring how innovations like artificial intelligence can help us identify threats quicker and deploy resources smarter,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “And with the world’s largest aerial firefighting force and more firefighters on the ground than ever before, we’re keeping more Californians safer from wildfire. While these resources will help protect our communities, Californians need to remain vigilant for what could be an intense wildfire season this year.”

In a press statement, the governor’s office said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is working with Lockheed Martin to explore incorporating Department of Defense-grade technology to fight wildfires. Specifically, CAL FIRE is focusing on drone-based software, AI-enabled tools, analytics, and capabilities to provide analysis of ground and atmospheric conditions in near real-time, as well as persistent communications capabilities to fire personnel on the ground during response activities.

The state is also working with the Environmental Defense Fund on low-earth orbit satellite technology. The state is exploring a potential partnership to formalize its ability to be involved in providing user input and feedback during system development, analyze sample and initial data from the system, and advance knowledge of satellite-based detection for wildland firefighting including wildland-urban interface fires and prescribed fire.

California is also expanding its Fire Integrated Real-time Intelligence System (FIRIS). Initially developed as a state-funded pilot in Orange County in 2019, it is now funded for statewide operations. The program provides real-time intelligence data and analysis on emerging disaster incidents in California. FIRIS uses infrared mounted cameras on aircraft to provide a common operating picture and data for near-real-time fire modeling that is available at the onset of emerging incidents.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs