Athena’s Artificial Intelligence and the Next Step in the Evolution of Wildfire Risk Assessment
Observing the dance of a flame around a match, a fire seems almost alive. Intricate and complex patterns unfold. This complexity can be described as the interplay of air currents, fuel composition, and the principles of chemistry and physics. But as the flicker of a single match grows into a larger fire, and further still to a raging wildfire, any model of fire behavior increases exponentially in complexity. Describing wildfire dynamics at scale involves consideration of a myriad variables across diverse axes to accurately predict the ultimate footprint of the fire.
And yet, to the human mind, the image of fire as a living entity still works. At Athena Intelligence, when introducing the probabilistic projections of future wildfire occurrence, we often begin with this description:
Ignition events can happen anywhere. What you want to know is where will the fire be consequential. Think of wildfire as a harvest event. Our proprietary algorithms can show where the best harvest will be, where a wild animal would go to feast.
Athena Intelligence has created an innovative approach to wildfire risk assessment. This shift from traditional methods of wildfire analysis, such as indexing, cataloging, curating, and describing risk factors, towards the deployment of complex algorithms to produce probabilities can only be described as transformative. These algorithms, based on a type of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, are capable of processing vast datasets and generating nuanced insights. Athena’s probabilistic projections mark a revolutionary leap in our understanding of wildfire risk dynamics.
Today, nearly all assessments of wildfire risks rely on meticulous indexing, cataloging, curation, and description of various risk factors. These traditional methods involve organizing data related to topography, vegetation types, historical fire incidents, and wind activity in structured databases. While these approaches have provided valuable insights, they often fall short in capturing the intricate interplay and dynamic nature of wildfire risks.
The WHP (the US Forestry Services’ Wildfire Hazard Potential) maps, for example, is published every 5 or 6 years. The WHP’s static descriptions are unable to keep pace with the evolving patterns of wildfire occurrences. For example, wildfires in recent years have been larger and often hundreds of degrees hotter than historic wildfires. The reliance on historical data alone limits the ability to respond to changes in weather patterns and anticipate to emerging risk factors.
The nature of indexing or cataloging introduces limitations in handling vast datasets. These approaches are susceptible to oversight or biases in interpreting risk factors. For example, stressing factors that homeowners can address, rather than factors related to probable movement of embers from well outside the insured’s property line.
Athena’s integration of complex algorithms into wildfire risk assessment ushers in a new era of insights and predictions. Artificial intelligence algorithms excel in processing massive datasets, identifying patterns, and predicting wildfire probabilities with a level of sophistication that other wildfire risk assessment tools have not been able to match.
By recognizing nuanced patterns from historic fires and applying these to current conditions, Athena’s model can anticipate where the land is ready to host a wildfire. Each year of new fire data contributes to a deeper understanding of the factors influencing wildfire risks. This continuous learning ensures that risk assessments at the landscape and the individual property level evolve alongside changing environmental conditions.
Athena Intelligences complex algorithm, Voice of the Acre®, not only identifies the correlation between a multitude of risk factors but also quantify uncertainties and calculate probabilities. This probabilistic approach provides decision-makers with a more nuanced and quantitative understanding of the likelihood of different wildfire scenarios, enhancing risk mitigation and preparedness efforts.
Voice of the Acre® was designed for scalability, cost effectiveness and ease of use. By offering users insight into the future fire potential, mitigation actions and capital decisions can be implemented before fire season starts. Operational activities that require situational awareness in higher risk areas can be identified and policies, procedures and training be put into place, which lowers total costs.
Athena’s utility customers are finding that by using maps based on these proprietary and complex algorithms, is improving their understanding of the land’s risks. This represents a significant evolution in their ability to comprehend, predict, and manage their insight into their assets and their corporate risk from wildfires.
By unlocking the power of complexity, Athena can offer a level of predictive precision that significantly improves business results for utilities and property insurers. This holds the promise of a safer, more resilient future in the face of escalating wildfire threats.
Athena Intelligence’s Voice of the Acre® is a geospatial, conditional, profiling tool that pulls together vast amounts of disaggregated wildfire and environmental data to generate spatial intelligence, resulting in a digital fingerprint of wildfire risk.
For power companies, this helps them assess, a year in advance, where a consequential fire is most likely. For insurance or financial services companies, this assists in underwriting, portfolio risk optimization and loss cost probabilities for reserving.
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