Network of AI wildfire sensors to be deployed across Hawaii in bid to prevent, slow blazes – Hawaii News Now

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KIHEI (HawaiiNewsNow) – Gov. Josh Green, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen and federal officials on Friday announced a new AI alert system designed to help with wildfire prevention and mitigation.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it will be deploying the 80 wildfire sensors and 16 wind sensors across the state. The smart sensors are each equipped with artificial intelligence.

Each county is expected to receive 20 fire sensors by April 8.

The new technology is now used in 11 other states in the U.S., but officials say Hawaii will be the first location to receive the new beta wildfire sensors developed by the Homeland Security’s Department of Science and Technology, U.S. Fire Administration, and N5 Sensors Inc.

In a Friday news conference, U.S. Fire Administrator Dr. Lori Moore Merrell said the new technology would sense smoke from fire and particles that smoke carries, which will alert local fire departments and enable firefighters to move quickly to stop the fire’s spread.

Watch full news conference:

The announcement came on the seven-month anniversary of the catastrophic Lahaina wildfire, which left 101 people dead and destroyed the historic town.

Merrel added that the sensors would also provide early alert information to inform the public if evacuations are needed.

According to researchers, the wildfire detection sensors also identify changes in conditions before wildfires start, providing 24-hour sensing and alerting capabilities.

The sensors continuously transmit information and send an email or text notification to a pre-programmed contact when these components are detected.

The system housing the sensors is small and compact, able to sit on a utility pole or a traffic light, and can work in all weather conditions.

“The sensors deployed today are more effective than traditional optical cameras or thermal imaging sensors used to identify fires, because they don’t just ‘see’ what is already visible — they ‘sniff’ out the fires as soon as they start,” said Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov, Under Secretary for Science and Technology.

Gov. Josh Green, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen and federal officials announced a new alert system Friday designed to help with wildfire prevention and mitigation.

“As wildfires and other climate change-driven challenges increase in frequency and severity, our department will continue working every day to develop innovative solutions and deploy them across the country for the safety and security of our communities,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas.

This comes in the wake of the Lahaina disaster as well as other concerning brush fires that took place across the islands in the past year.

“Reflecting on the tragedy our people have endured, fire mitigation remains at the forefront of our recovery efforts,” said Bissen.

“With this new technology, detecting fires at the very early phases will save lives. We are already exploring ways to rebuild Lahaina safer, and the introduction of an early detection system will give our emergency responders a critical advantage in protecting our community.”

Officials said the sensors are being provided to the state at no cost in order to show the Homeland Security Department’s continued commitment to support long-term recovery efforts following the unprecedented wildfires on Maui, while advancing innovative solutions for extreme weather events driven by climate change.

Department of Defense Adjutant Gen. Kenneth Hara and Maui County Director of Fire and Public Safety Brad Ventura both say the sensors will enable local agencies to respond in a timely manner and ultimately, protect communities.

This story will be updated.

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