Managers within electrical utilities, with responsibility for reducing wildfire exposure, tend to be in second careers. Almost without exception, they spent years, usually decades, fighting forest fires. They have a different, and more pragmatic attitude towards wildfire than others with less direct experience.
This quote, from Michael Herrman, a German firefighter, is making the rounds on the Internet:
As long as we believe that wildfire is just a question of firefighting, we will lose battle after battle. … As long as prevention is not heroic enough and there is not enough pressure on training and protection topics, we will play a losing game. This will impact everyone, but especially firefighters.
Mr. Herrmann’s comments could have come out of any of our contacts in the utility industry as they discuss the circular process of wildfire mitigation and management.
Athena, because of its history as an AgTech company, views wildfire as a harvest event. Wildfires only go where the land conditions will support it, and they will tend to move toward the higher risk conditions — like a hungry animal moving towards the grasslands with the plants it prefers.
Looked at from fire is simple. It takes burnable fuel, the conditions of the land, and a spark. “People are changing all three of those,” Jennifer Balch, a fire ecologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, was quoted in National Geographic saying. “Climate change is not the only thing going on, but it is a big and important part of the story.”
For any utility, the focus of wildfire mitigation is 3-fold:
Reduce Risk (Prevent), Respond to the Fire (Detect) & Protect (Communities and Assets)
Athena’s overarching goal is to help humans hear the Voice of the Acre® Prevention comes from listening and using the insights into the conditions on the land. We generate maps which a utility can use in a wildfire mitigation plan. They can use the same map, which we update regularly, for vegetation management and in the capital allocation process of determining where to put sensors or where to invest in placing transmission lines underground.
For Detection, there are sensors and fire simulators. Most firefighters are very interested in weather conditions, as wind speed changes the path of flying embers and moves fire. Fire simulation firms offer a 3 or 4 day forecast. The ability to see risk forward a full year is like climate, where a short-term forecast is more like weather.
More recently, we have begun working with market leading sensor companies who can detect the fire early … and our maps allow utilities to almost instantly know where the land can host a wildfire. This isn’t a fire simulation, but rather complementary probabilistic prediction of where the fire will go, based upon the fuel, moisture levels, topography and other factors which influence the interactions between fire and the landscape.
This is helpful for the Protection of Communities because Athena’s insights, which reflect the conditional risk over the next year, give local utilities insights they can use. Athena’s conditional risk maps are useful for wildfire mitigation plans (WMP), capital allocation decisions (where to place sensors, or which lines to invest in placing underground) and vegetation management.
Fire prevention is still significantly more cost-effective than fighting a fire, just as it was in 1736 when Benjamin Franklin talking about fire risk in Philadelphia and said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Because of their commitment to public safety, and their personal experience with wildfires, utilities are finding Athena’s insights helpful in reducing risk and planning for wildfires.
Athena is a next generation InsurTech data vendor which produces synthetic data. The earth’s essential data is refined to make it easy for enterprises to use environmental information for future contracts, proprietary business decisions and risk management.
Contact us at Info@Project-Athena.com