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How artificial intelligence is helping fight Utah wildfires

LAYTON, Utah — Some Utah firefighters are getting some help to detect wildfires before flames are visible.  The EDWIN Project (Early Detection Wildfire Imaging Network) uses cameras with artificial intelligence (A.I.) to seek out hot spots in wildfires among the hills along portions of the Wasatch Front.  

Three thermal imaging cameras, developed by a team at UTOPIA Fiber, were installed in Layton, Murray and Woodland Hills simultaneously for a BETA test.  

“Their A.I. cameras caught the early stages of a brush fire in Woodland Hills on July 6,” said Bob Knight, spokesman for UTOPIA Fiber. 

Crews extinguished the smoldering flames before the fire consumed too much acreage.

“Wildfires can cost anywhere from $44,000 to $215,000 per minute,” said Knight. “So having early detection of these hot spots can not only save lives, but also millions of dollars in economic losses.”

The thermal cameras are positioned to scan the hills of Utah’s mountains.  If the cameras detect a hot spot, the artificial intelligence automatically sends a message about potential wildfires to local fire departments, long before smoke is visible.

Each A.I. camera costs $20,000.  But the United States spends between $71 billion and$350 billion each year fighting wildfires, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“We anticipate that EDWIN will be an important tool in keeping the community safe and reducing the rapidly-escalating cost of battling wildfires,” said Kevin Ward, Layton City Fire Chief.

Utah’s Department of Agriculture and Food reports the Beehive State averages 1,300 wildfires a year, burning about 250,000 acres.  This year, Utah has already more than tripled last year’s numbers.

Communities interested in joining The EDWIN Project’s beta test, or learning more, can visit UTOPIAfiber.com/EDWIN.