Wildfires have been a natural part of the ecosystem’s cycle for centuries. Older forest perishes in a fire, and new vegetation grows on the land and reforests. The carbon dioxide generated by wildfire is neutralized by newly grown trees. However, the frequency and intensity of wildfires are increasing recently due to factors such as climate change and natural drought conditions. As wildfires keep breaking out even before the young trees grow, the once-neutral global cycle has become a vicious one.
Wildfires have various adverse effects on the environment and human life. From destroying forests to devastating homes and increasing the risk of health problems caused by air pollution, the impact of wildfires on our lives and the steps we can take to minimize the damage will be our focus.
Rapid wildfires are a growing concern for many communities around the world.
According to the non-profit organization World Resources Institute, the current wildfire burns 30,000 square kilometers per year, nearly twice as much as in 2001, and about a quarter of the world's forests have been destroyed in the past 20 years due to wildfire.
[Data: World Resources Institute]
The U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) wildfire report also suggested a bleak outlook that extreme wildfires could increase by up to 14% by 2030, 30% by 2050, and 50% by 2100.
We tend to perceive wildfire damage as limited to forests, but wildfires cause invisible environmental problems that threaten human health. Smoke generated by wildfires contains harmful particles and gases that can cause respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis. These harmful particles and gases can cause eye irritation and headaches and can be particularly fatal to the elderly, children, and people with underlying diseases.
In addition to health risks, wildfires lead to property damage and even loss of life. Major California wildfires in 2020 took thousands of people's homes, and the emotional damage of losing homes and possessions to wildfires is incalculable. It takes a long time for communities to recover.
Last but not least, the ecosystem can be severely damaged by wildfires. The destruction of natural habitats caused by wildfires can cause the extinction of many species of plants and animals. Recently, major wildfires caused the destruction of more than 5 million hectares of koala habitat in Australia. Fertile soil can be depleted of nutrients, leading to reduced vegetation diversity, and even reduced productivity. In addition, wildfires can increase soil erosion and pose a risk of landslides, causing further damage to nearby homes and communities.
As wildfire is a disaster that leaves a deep scar on our lives and ecosystems, we must take measures to minimize the damage. What measures can we take?
Proper Land Management: Forest and other wildland management can reduce the risk of wildfire. Regular removal of dead trees and bushes can prevent dry vegetation from accumulating.
Better Planning and Development: Wildfire-prone communities can improve planning and development to reduce wildfire risk. Efforts such as creating fire prevention measures, establishing evacuation plans, and designing fire resistance in homes and buildings can be made.
Early Detection: It is important to detect wildfires early and respond quickly as possible so that they do not spread to large-scale wildfires.
Climate Change Mitigation: Climate change is now a major cause of the increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires. Future wildfires can be reduced by mitigating climate change, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, UNEP pointed out that governments spend more than half of their budgets directly responding to wildfires.
UNEP strongly suggests that each government focus two-thirds of its budget on prevention, preparation, and recovery, emphasizing the “5Rs” principles:
UNEP 5Rs principal framework
Focusing on wildfire prevention can reduce the occurrence of underlying fires and minimize economic and long-term damage compared to responding after fires occur. Even in the event of a fire, economic, environmental, and human costs can be reduced.
It is also noted that early detection of fires through preparations such as building a response system increases the probability of extinguishing them. In the case of the United States, the average fire suppression rate reaches 90% when fires are detected and responded to within 24 hours of the start. On the other hand, wildfires that failed to be suppressed in the early stages can exceed the limit of suppression and spread to major wildfires that cannot be contained no matter how much support and equipment are engaged.
In the end, prevention before a wildfire is preferable to response after a wildfire. ALCHERA is doing our best to prevent wildfire before it spreads out of control.
ALCHERA's wildfire detection AI solution, FireScout detects early wildfire smoke and adds great strength to the subsequent response. FireScout uses cameras distributed throughout wildfire-watching areas for deep-learning algorithms to detect smoke immediately.
The smoke detected by the algorithm is then subjected to a double check by a human monitor per 200 cameras to filter false detections. After recording the smoke that could develop into a wildfire on the dashboard, a notification is sent to the response personnel, who will be immediately dispatched for suppression to take place.
Wildfire detection AI, which works twenty-four/seven, 365 days a year, relieves fatigue from multiple CCTV checks and can monitor deserted mountainous areas, leading to faster alerts than man-made fire reports. FireScout has already detected and alerted numerous high-profile fires faster than 911 calls, all of which have been extinguished to less than 0.1 acres.
Today, we’ve talked about the impact of wildfires and the measures we can take to prevent them.
Proper land management, better development, early detection, and quick response are all important to wildfire prevention, but above all, addressing climate change, the root cause, is essential. To this end, we must work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in renewable energy and other measures to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Individuals, communities, government agencies, and companies like ALCHERA must work together to prevent wildfires effectively. If all of us collaborate on wildfire prevention, we can protect the environment and ensure a more sustainable future.