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SRP partners with European company for new wildfire detection project

SRP is partnering with a Polish company for a new pilot program that would help detect wildfires before they hit powerlines.
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 10:09 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - As Northern Arizona faces a heightened fire threat the next few days due to stronger winds, SRP is partnering with a European smoke detector company, SmokeD, to get in front of any wildfires.

The primary goal of the technology is to protect SRP powerlines from fires. And the pilot program hopes to give all involved parties more preparation time by utilizing artificial intelligence. “It’s going to be good to work with them,” SRP Fire Management Officer Floyd Hardin said. “It’ll be fun.”

For over two years, Hardin has collaborated with Poland-based SmokeD. Unfortunately, there have been delays due to COVID and supply chain issues. But now, the finish line is in sight for 12 smoke detector and camera systems to be available near the Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. “We have all the material here,” he said. “And now we’re at the step with making the mounts to install on all our structures.”

Unlike similar technology used in California, SRP won’t be creating new sites for this technology. Instead, they’ll be installing the necessary solar panels, cameras, and smoke detectors onto existing transmission towers at two locations off Highway 260. “We picked it based on where we had cellular service to be able to talk between the cameras,” Hardin said. “And then get it back to the Valley.”

When it comes to wildfires, Arizona’s current early-detection method is a human-controlled dispatch center. This new detection system uses solar-powered infrared cameras to capture images up to 10 miles away with a 360-degree view. “If someone’s not manning a lookout tower or driving by and it’s in a remote area and sees it and sends the information back, then that would be earlier for us,” Hardin said. “Which would be better.”

Right now, it’s just SRP who is receiving the information from these early-detection systems. But eventually, the goal is to incorporate other environmental agencies like the US Forest Service and the Department of Forestry and Fire Management into the communication process. “Just getting fire detection, early warning, that’s critical to everybody,” Hardin said. “Homes, environment, getting into those areas, watersheds, everybody’s infrastructure.”

Hardin says SRP’s goal is to get their two pilot sites set up by September (the tail end of this fire season) to better understand the impact this technology can have on early detection.