Wildfire monitors at the University of California, San Diego, show a fire in July in Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles, July 26, 2023.
Ariana Drehsler—The New York Times/Redux
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Detecting wildfires before they spread is a challenge now plaguing much of the world. University of California San Diego’s public safety program, AlertCalifornia, is employing AI to help. Working with Cal Fire, the program trained AI to detect smoke and other early indications of fire on a feed from a network of more than 1,050 cameras placed in forests across the state. When the system spots something, it alerts the local fire department via text message. In the first two months, the system had correctly identified 77 fires before any 911 calls came in. “The greatest success stories of this [system] are the fires you never hear about,” says Falco Kuester, co-principal investigator at AlertCalifornia.

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