Aspen Fire Protection District pilots new fire detection tool
Strategically placed cameras, artificial intelligence help spot wildfires
The Aspen Fire Protection District is piloting new technology that will keep an eye — er, AI, rather — on wildfires this summer using artificial intelligence technology and strategically placed cameras, the district announced Saturday.
The system uses specialized cameras at specific vantage points to monitor the skyline, coupled with artificial intelligence and intuitive software technology from wildfire tech company Pano AI to detect, locate and communicate wildfire threats almost instantly, according to a news release.
“Pano’s platform uses mountaintop cameras, artificial intelligence, and intuitive software to automatically detect the first wisps of smoke and put real-time fire images in the hands of first responders and emergency personnel, all with the goal of detecting flare-ups earlier and enabling a faster response before they become large infernos,” the release states.
Cameras stationed on Pitkin County communications towers will continuously rotate to capture 360-degree views of the area; Pano AI software will process that imagery in real time to detect smoke and alert dispatchers or appropriate agencies.
When multiple cameras capture the same smoke wisps, the software can use triangulation to pinpoint the location, “helping response crews coordinate a faster, more targeted response,” according to the release.
The technology will scan most of the middle and upper Roaring Fork Valley, “from independence to El Jebel and possibly beyond,” the release states.
Aspen Fire will work with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Pitkin County Telecommunication, Elk Mountain Technology and Pano AI on the pilot program. Aspenite Jerry Hosier will fund the entire initiative with a donation to Aspen Fire that will go directly to pilot program expenses.
The early detection pilot program could begin as soon as June and last through the fall. The technology is not yet widely available, and officials emphasize that this summer’s implementation is part of a pilot program meant to test and improve the technology.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that Jerry Hosier’s offer to fund the project will go directly to program expenses through a donation to Aspen Fire. There is no financial partnership with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office; because Sheriff Joe DiSalvo is an elected official overseeing a law enforcement agency, the sheriff’s office does not accept private donations “in order to avoid potential or perceived conflicts of interest,” according to a May 26 news release.
The Aspen Ambulance District seeks a property-tax increase to keep up its level of service, and the Pitkin County commissioners showed initial willingness this week to put the question on the Nov. 8 ballot.
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