September 27, 2023 1:47 am
Technology could be key to future wildfire prevention, fighting: companies

When wildfires hit Alberta earlier this month, leaving additional than ten,000 square kilometres of land scorched so far this year, João Lopes was worried about how a lot additional devastation could be on its way.

“Regrettably, the statistics are displaying that perhaps subsequent year will be worse than this year,” stated the entrepreneur, who founded crop monitoring and fire danger assessment technologies corporation SensaioTech.

Wildfires flaring up about Halifax in current days are however one more reminder of the escalating dangers that numerous are warning of.

A United Nations report from 2022 located wildfires are becoming “additional intense and additional frequent” and stated with temperatures on the rise as worldwide warming worsens, “the need to have to lower wildfire danger is additional important than ever.”

Canada alone sees about 7,500 wildfires burn additional than two.five million hectares of forest — about half the size of Nova Scotia — each year and that quantity is projected to double by 2050, the Canadian Space Agency has stated.

“We need to have to do one thing to assist them,” stated Lopes, whose corporation is split involving Toronto and Brazil, exactly where wildfires have threatened the Amazon rainforest and sugar cane fields.

Aid could come in the type of technologies aimed at creating wildfire prevention, containment and fighting a lot easier, additional correct and significantly less pricey, he and other individuals think.

SensaioTech’s providing is centred on artificial intelligence-equipped sensors it locations in forests and farm environments. The sensors monitor 14 unique variables such as soil temperature, humidity, luminosity, salinity, PH levels, pests and illnesses.

They take readings each minute, sending them to a dashboard clientele can overview, and issuing alerts to the customer’s electronic devices when any variables attain hazardous levels.

SensaioTech’s strategy is a departure from the historical information and satellites Lopes stated are often employed to predict and thwart the spread of wildfires. Although each can be valuable, he stated sensor information tends to be additional present and precise.

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“When you have satellites, commonly the photos are collected 3 or 4 days ago, so generally, you can’t see the actual time,” he stated.

“Also, it does not have the precision about these smaller locations or spots exactly where the fire can start out.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists has counted 971 satellites that can track smoke and other wildfire components, up from 192 in 2014. Nonetheless, handful of fly more than northern latitudes such as Canada’s and numerous only capture instances when fires are not burning at their peak.

WildfireSat, the world’s very first objective-constructed satellite for monitoring wildfires, will aim to modify that.

The initiative from the Canadian Space Agency, Canadian Forest Service, Canadian Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation and Atmosphere and Climate Modify Canada is scheduled to launch in 2029.

The satellite will fly more than Canada in the late afternoon, when fire activity is at its peak, providing firefighters even greater capacity to predict wildfire behaviour.

At function on the satellite are California analytics corporation Spire Worldwide and OroraTech, a German space-primarily based thermal intelligence with a Vancouver outpost.

OroraTech pulls information from additional than 20 satellites and algorithms that can estimate a fire’s size and place, map the burn location and estimate its severity, sending alerts to devices as quickly as a trouble or modify in situations is detected.

The company’s philosophy is that wildfires “are not going to go away,” stated Liene Lapševska, a communications lead at the corporation.

“We cannot quit it, regrettably, but we can attempt to handle it with the appropriate technologies.”

Cheryl Evans, director of flood and wildfire resilience at the Intact Centre on Climate Adaption at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, agrees.

Although the globe is seeing a smaller sized quantity of wildfires than in the previous, she stated “the wildfires that get out of hand and develop into massive monsters are becoming prevalent.

Climate modify is partly to blame due to the fact it really is making additional hot, dry and windy days that are excellent fire situations. Enhanced lightning activity, which causes about half of wildfires by Evan’s estimates, exacerbates matters.

“The other piece that if you are receiving a lot of heat in forests that are not employed to that, it stresses them out and can make them additional vulnerable to illness.

“Then you get these massive dead stands of trees that are just prepared to light on fire.”

Any technological advances toward solving such challenges or stopping wildfires are “critically crucial,” she stated, due to the fact about 90 per cent of public spending is devoted to fire suppression with only ten per cent allocated toward prevention.

“It really is pretty lopsided.”

Although communities can use additional wildfire- and ignition-resistant supplies for developing and maintain firewood and tanks away from structures, she expects fires will continue to be a force Canada has to reckon with for years to come, even if it adopts additional technologies.

“We need to have to study to reside with Mother Nature,” she stated. “This is the reality.”

—with files from Bob Weber in Edmonton

This report by The Canadian Press was very first published May possibly 30, 2023.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

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