Test burns to assess effectiveness of Vernon's remote wildfire-sensing network

SenseNet test burn planned

UPDATE: 11:45 a.m.

The City of Vernon says early wildfire detection system test burns along Eastside Road will create smoke on Thursday and Friday.

The work is part of the SenseNet early wildland fire detection system partnership between the city, UBC and SenseNet Technologies of Vancouver.

The city was selected for testing of the emerging technology in 2022.

Sensors and cameras have been installed in higher-risk areas around the city to provide a web of early fire detection.

Residents may see smoke from small test fires.

"Early detection is a powerful tool in managing fires," says Fire Chief David Lind. "When we get fuel mitigation and early detection right, and have an adequate response, the fires typically go out while they are still manageable. Early detection is also key for moving people out of the way when fast moving fires do occur. These tests will provide for system validation, in a controlled setting, and for fine tuning as needed."

"In the face of the severe wildfires impacting Canada ... proactive measures are essential in effectively protecting our communities," said SenseNet CEO Hamed Noori.

"Our technology is a tool; the real champions are the fire departments who utilize these tools to enhance their capabilities in this new era of increasingly severe wildfires. These situations demand innovative approaches, and Vernon Fire Rescue Services stands out as one of the most forward-thinking departments in Canada.

"We are hopeful that our technology can make their critical job of keeping the community safe a little easier."

ORIGINAL: 4 a.m.

Test burns this month will assess the effectiveness of Vernon's SenseNet remote wildfire-sensing equipment.

Twenty remote-sensing devices were mounted on trees near Ellison late last year as part of a pilot project between UBC and SenseNet Technologies of Vancouver.

Test burns will be conducted along Eastside Road Dec. 15, depending on weather.

One-metre piles of brush will be ignited near installed sensors to prove the effectiveness of the system, a report to city council states.

Contractors and firefighters will be on site to ensure safety and monitor the tests.

Representatives from BC Parks, and FP Innovations, a research company working with SenseNet and the BC Wildfire Service, will also be on hand.

Meanwhile, the city is seeking a FireSmart grant of up to $400,000 from the UBCM Community Resiliency Investment Program.

In an update on the city's FireSmart program, cedar hedges are clearly in its sights.

"Multiple complaints" to bylaw staff are noted about fire risk on city-owned boulevards having "driven the need to assess the risk and prepare an informed response."

City crews have already started to mitigate risks around critical infrastructure, the report states.

The city's FireSmart task force will inventory sites, provide a risk assessment, and prepare a mitigation plan including replacement planting, if necessary.

A FireSmart demonstration project is also planned in Polson Park.

It is slated to begin in the next couple of weeks.

Contractors will demonstrate proper limbing, spacing and pruning techniques.

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