COLORADO — Lawmakers in Colorado have unanimously voted to push a bill forward that would create a $2 million pilot program to use cameras and artificial intelligence to detect wildfires. The bill was approved by a senate committee last week.
Colorado is at high risk for wildfires, and that includes communities like Colorado Springs. 11 years ago, the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed more than 300 homes on the west side of town. Ten years ago, the Black Forest fire destroyed more than 500 homes in the north east part of town.
Colorado Springs Fire Marshall, Brett Lacey believes the bill, if passed into law, would benefit smaller, more rural communities.
“When you're buried into those smaller communities, and the number of trees and the hills you have, it's very difficult to see very far distances. So the benefit of having cameras at a higher altitude, to be able to scan a larger area, will be very beneficial,” said Lacey.
The pilot program includes installing 40 camera stations throughout the state, along with six mobile stations to monitor fires. Sponsors of the bill say it will save homes, land and lives.
Lacey also said if the bill passes, the pilot program would help test newer technology, to see how first responders can use it to their advantage.
“I think anything we can do to try to make appropriate detection, and deal with preventing disasters by jumping on fires quickly, or at least identifying them in addition to early warning is beneficial,” said Lacey.
For those who've already lost their home, like Ted Robertson, the bill comes as a relief.
“If there's a way to make wildfires not happen, if there's a way to prevent it, that's a relief for folks like us,” said Robertson. “We can live with a little bit more peace, knowing that there's something else out there on the front lines to help that not happen again.”
Robertson lost his home during the Black Forest Fire. Before the fire was contained and put out, Robertson returned to his home.
“It was all gone, it was leveled, still burning, and still fire there. I made one of the worst phone calls I’ve ever had to make in my life to my wife, and i had to tell her it was all gone,” said Robertson.
Robertson said while he has questions about how the pilot program would work including the artificial intelligence, he hopes it will prevent other families from losing their home also.
The bill was introduced more than a year after the Marshall Fire burned more than 1,000 homes in Boulder County, which was the most destructive wildfire in Colorado state history. Up next, the bill will be moving forward to the state Senate Appropriations Committee.
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