Cameras to detect forest fires in the Halifax region

Nova Scotia and its capital are joining together to try new approaches to better detect forest fires.

They launched a pilot project for forest fire surveillance and detection cameras powered by artificial intelligence.

The project includes three specialized cameras positioned at Musquodoboit HarborMiddle Sackville and Hammonds Plains who monitor the landscape for signs of smoke 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Each of them covers an area of ​​at least 29 km, although one managed to capture the fire on the roof of a building under construction in Halifax almost 50 km away.

Deputy Chief of the Halifax Fire Services, Roy Holletrecognizes the advantages of this technology.

Before, a forest ranger would look at the forest from the top of a tower looking for fires. When he saw smoke, he notified the firefighters and the Ministry of Natural Resourceshe explains. Now technology takes care of it.

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Roy Hollet is the deputy chief of the Halifax Fire Department.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Paul Léger

These cameras will be mounted on a tower and the municipality specifies that they will offer a non-intrusive 360-degree view. They will provide a continuous stream of images to software based on artificial intelligence FireScoutwhich can detect potential fire conditions by looking for signs of smoke.

FireScout uses machine learning to continually improve how it identifies and detects smoke, comparing it to millions of database images to identify a potential wildfire.

Cameras aided by the artificial intelligence system can detect forest fires day and night. The system can differentiate between haze, dust and smoke.

Once the software identifies a potential sign of smoke, the system alerts Halifax Fire Department personnel to evaluate the images and decide the next step, which may be to dispatch firefighters to the scene.

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Smoke from fires in Halifax in May 2023 in Nova Scotia.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Mark Crosby

Christian Blouin is convinced of the system’s capabilities, the senior director of artificial intelligence strategy at Dalhousie University specifies that this type of software has already proven itself in other fields.

In the medical field, for example, it is possible to differentiate between different types of tumors and this is probably a problem that is more difficulthe said.

The data collected will also be used to develop the strategy to make the entire municipality less vulnerable to forest fires.

In addition to efforts like this to increase early detection of wildfires, Halifax already offers assessments FireSmart to help landowners mitigate impacts around their property.

With information from Paul Légère

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