smoke from wildfires over hills and vineyards in Sonoma Valley, California (Serj Malomuzh/

Napa County installs AI-based early fire detection

Officials in Napa County, Calif., plan to install IQ FireWatch systems as part of its efforts improve the county’s early fire detection capabilities.

The pole-mounted, artificial intelligence-based system uses optical and heat sensors to detect and analyze smoke plumes that may indicate fire. When smoke that indicates a possible fire is spotted, the system alerts authorities, sending images so officials can rapidly confirm a fire and dispatch appropriate response.

Besides helping improve wildfire detection, the system will help first firefighters respond to fires before they get out of control and ensure that the public receives critical information in a fire emergency, officials with Illumination Technologies, the manufacturer of IQ Firewatch, said in their announcement.

IQ FireWatch’s multispectral sensor system features a monochrome sensor for day surveillance, a near-infrared sensor for night detection, an RGB sensor for additional spectral information and an optional thermal infrared sensor for hot spot detection, the company said on its website.

The system’s AI algorithms process optical raw data in real time, speeding the delivery of results and reducing the false alarm rate. It can be calibrated for various regions and weather conditions.

IQ FireWatch has already detected two fires, the Diamond Mountain fire on Aug. 24, 2020, and the Glass Fire ignition on Sept. 27, 2020. The Glass Fire, which was burning in a hilly area, was spotted in the middle of the night even though it was not directly visible to sensors, company officials said.

The Napa County project will launch with three systems, expanding to 11 that will provide an early warning fire-sensing network that covers 90% of the county.

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