Alberta’s government is implementing new technology for detecting and managing wildfires across the province.
Wildfire management best practices are always evolving, which highlights the importance of research into, and the adoption of, new technologies and innovative practices.
“The safety of Albertans and their communities is our top priority, so we’re moving forward on new firefighting tools and practices, like artificial intelligence and drones, to add even more firefighting tools to our tool kit,” Devin Dreeshen, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry said.
Remote piloted aircraft systems
Alberta Wildfire uses drones to help detect hot spots on the landscape, plan and monitor prescribed burns and investigate the cause of wildfires. This summer, we’re expanding the use of drones in conditions that are unsafe for manned aircraft to fly, such as at night and in other poor visibility conditions like heavy smoke.
Gel water enhancer systems
Water enhancing gels are a fire suppressant, limiting the amount of oxygen available to fuel a fire. This season, Alberta Wildfire is using gels to support protection of areas at risk, such as buildings and infrastructure in the Forest Protection Area. We currently have two gel-capable helicopters ready for use.
Water delivery systems
Water is the most effective tool we have to manage and extinguish wildfires in Alberta. Alberta Wildfire will be using a number of high-volume water delivery systems this fire season. These systems have the potential to supplement our current capabilities to deliver huge amounts of water through large water cannons/sprinklers to protect roads, bridges and other structures being threatened by wildfire. These tools will be used across the Forest Protection Area for both planned research activities and firefighting.
Remote camera wildfire detection systems
Alberta Wildfire will use artificial intelligence and crowd-sourcing to supplement existing wildfire lookouts. Cameras that learn to identify smoke will be used to automatically alert firefighters to respond. By sharing detection camera feeds, this will also allow partners to assist with wildfire detection. The use of artificial intelligence will be evaluated against existing tools to determine whether it will be useful in Alberta.
A greater use of alternative tactics for wildfire detection, preparedness and suppression was one of the recommendations from the Spring 2019 Wildfire Review.
After the 2021 wildfire season, new technology will be evaluated based on criteria including the effectiveness and success of each tool and the potential cost savings.