Boulder County is employing new technology meant to help first responders detect fires faster.
The new partnership with Pano AI — the first of its kind in Boulder County — will use high-definition cameras and artificial intelligence to help spot fires, check fuel conditions and zero in on a specific location.
And it’s happening almost a year after Boulder County experienced the most destructive fire in state history and at a time when Colorado is reported to be among the top five states in the country for homes most vulnerable to wildfire damage because of a drier and hotter climate.
“Wildfire threat is surging in our county,” Sheriff Joe Pelle stated in a news release. “We are seeing longer and more severe wildfire seasons each year due to our warming climate.”
The idea has been in the works for more than two years, and it was at least in part inspired by the fact Pano’s Chief Commercial Officer Arvind Satyam grew up experiencing bushfires in Australia and now lives in California, where some of the largest fires in the United States have occurred.
Through conversations with fire departments, utility and insurance companies and other entities across the country, Satyam said Pano AI determined that a lack of technology is one of the challenges first responders face.
“We need more technology. It needs to be better. It needs to get into the hands of people on the front lines,” he said. “There’s a lot of disparate technology that doesn’t really connect together.”
According to information from Pano AI, the company offers a fully-integrated wildfire detection solution that combines advanced hardware, including satellites and ultra high-definition 360-degree cameras, computer vision and artificial intelligence.
This is all meant to help first responders get to the scene faster and more safely to stop an ignition before it spreads.
“Minutes matter. Every large fire starts as a small fire,” Satyam said.
Boulder County’s Fire Management Officer Seth McKinney echoed this.
“Pano AI gives our fire managers and incident commanders greater visibility of hard-to-monitor terrain and real time situational awareness to help us determine an early action plan for emerging and escalating incidents, enabling quick deployment of the right resources to the right location,” McKinney stated in the release. “This immediate, tactical intelligence will be a valuable tool to aid in our decision making.”
There are currently operational cameras at Eldora and Lee Hill with a third set to come online soon. According to Boulder County, in areas where the cameras are close enough to see people, for example, a ski run at Eldora, Pano AI will use pixilation to blur the video/photo to protect privacy.
In choosing locations for the cameras, Pano AI consults with people on the ground to determine the areas at highest risk for wildfire.
Pano AI also hopes to expand the use of its technology to areas outside Boulder County, given that fires don’t have jurisdictional boundaries, Satyam noted.
He also said the company expects the technology to one day make an impact on insurance rates and insurability of properties in high-risk areas.
“If you have the ability to respond to incidents faster, contain them, keep them smaller, then you have the opportunity to make (an area) more insurable,” Satyam said.