Could AI help detect forest fires? Here’s the tech Bay Area developers say is a game-changer

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — A Bay Area tech company is using artificial intelligence to help homeowners detect wildfires moments after they start. Developers of the new technology believe it could be a game changer when it comes to saving lives and property.

Indoor smoke detectors have been around for decades, but imagine having a smoke or fire detector for the outdoors. A Bay Area tech start-up says that’s its vision.

“The concept of an indoor smoke detector, taking it outside, except we also incorporate other sensors into it,” said Torch Sensors co-founder Vasya Tremsin.

The 23-year-old explains that the small solar-powered device mounted outside uses sensors and artificial intelligence to help detect a fire moments after it starts in backyards, vineyards or the ranches.

MORE: How a massive wildfire around this Bay Area town could protect thousands of homes

“We have different variables,” he said. “Each sensor has infrared cameras, gas sensors, humidity sensors, all the data comes in real time.”

Through an app, AI technology sends an alert to your phone if a fire is spotted.

“The goal is to alert you when the fire is exploitable,” Michael Buckwald said. “If we do our job well, you can put out the fire or call 911.”

Tremsin is a Bay Area native who helped develop the initial concept for flare catchers following the wildfires that devastated parts of North Bay. The project was for a science fair at the Campolindo de Moraga high school, where he was a student.

“In the past, there was no technology to detect fire early,” he said. “That’s why every year we continue to have bigger and bigger wildfires.”

MORE: National study finds Californians moving to wildfire-prone areas, prioritizing space and affordability

We asked Marin County Fire Chief Jason Weber what he thought of the concept of a high-tech fire detector.

“If we had technology like this, it would help us in real time,” he said. “Changing our response to the spread of fire.”

The developers say the device performed well in tests during controlled burns in Northern California.

Torch Sensors is expected to be rolled out to the public in the fall. The price, about $299.00.

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