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Santa Clara County to use AI for fire prevention

Santa Clara County Fire Department
Santa Clara County Fire Department

About 10 AI sensors will be placed around the county in the coming weeks, covering roughly 6,000 acres.

Jared Lewis is the Manager of Environmental Planning and Natural Resources at San Jose Water, one of the agencies helping install the sensors. He says they can help identify fires in their earliest stages. “The sensors are akin to a human nose," Lewis said in an interview. "They can smell, for all intents and purposes, fire, in early phases. So even as early as the smoldering phase, the sensors will detect that smoke.”  

The sensors have been trained on data sets that help them identify different types of smoke. Once the sensors detect a fire, they’ll alert firefighters and first responders.

The sensors are the newest addition to an already existing AI fire prevention program in Santa Clara County. In early 2022, the county implemented an AI camera to help them in their fire prevention efforts.

Santa Clara joins a growing number of municipalities that are relying on artificial intelligence for fire prevention. In May, the Oakland Fire Department announced its own pilot program of air quality sensors. And in July, CalFire debuted ALERTCalifornia — a program that involves more than a thousand high-definition AI cameras deployed throughout the state.

Lewis said that Santa Clara county hopes to continue scaling up its AI efforts.

Quinn is currently a sophomore at Amherst College, where she takes classes in history, Spanish, economics, and philosophy. She got introduced to radio through her college radio station and was lucky enough to be an intern in the KRCB newsroom last summer.