Vernon deploying sensors around the North Okanagan that will detect wildfires

Sensors a 'game changer'

High-tech sensors are being deployed around the North Okanagan that will detect wildfires and alert officials.

Several wood piles were set ablaze at Vernon's Ellison Provincial Park Friday as part of a test of the equipment, that passed with flying colours.

The sensors by SenseNet Inc. continuously monitor the environment and identify anomalies that often precede a fire outbreak.

A warning is then sent to fire officials who can use the system's cameras to see the area immediately.

Hamed Noori, SenseNet founder and CEO, said the closer a fire is to a sensor, the quicker it will be detected. He said a fire one kilometre away will be detected in less than 10 minutes.

The system uses seven different sensors to detect anomalies that can indicate a wildfire.

“We have been developing this technology over the last four years, and because it is literally going to save lives we don't want to rush it,” Noori said, adding the testing conducted Friday was a “validation of the system which is operational right now. We can install a sensor wherever we want and it will pick up a fire in a matter of minutes.”

Wes Brassard, with Vernon Fire Rescue Services, said the sensors are “a game changer.”

“The most crucial thing we have out there is responding to a fire in a timely manner,” Brassard said. “The quicker we can respond to something, the faster we can put it out or control it or make appropriate operational decisions.”

Brassard said this technology has been needed for a long time.

“Responding to a fire early on is really based on the detection...so this system can give us that early wildfire detection,” he said.

Having cameras mated with the sensors is a huge benefit to fire crews.

“We have the ability to view these cameras from an iPad or from our TVs at the fire hall and then we can be making decisions based on what we are seeing.”

Sensors were in place last summer when a wildfire broke out at Ellison Provincial Park, but crews were not immediately alerted.

“Our system was still in the learning stages. We went back in the data and we did notice that there was an anomaly detected roughly 20 minutes before the first report, but as we were still in the testing stages we weren't alerted,” Brassard said.

Noori said the system is now fully operation.

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