Sun, 20 Sep 2020

SYDNEY, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- With Australia still recovering from the past devastating fire season, local philanthropic group the Minderoo Foundation launched plans to dramatically overhaul fire prevention tactics using the latest technologies and knowledge on Tuesday.

Officially known as the "Fire Shield Mission," the ambitious project aims to be able to detect, monitor and extinguish dangerous fires anywhere in Australia within an hour by 2025.

Founded by Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, the Minderoo Foundation brought together top experts from science, technology, and the corporate space to harness new technology and defend against the threat of fire.

"Throughout history, communities have been at the mercy of the elements. It is time for us to harness the power of people, technology and data to fight back," said Adrian Turner, CEO of Minderoo Foundation's Fire and Flood Resilience initiative.

"We've studied the system breaks across fire, landscapes and communities and believe that when they're resolved the outcome will be generational change, lifting Australia to be the world's fire and flood resilience leader by 2025."

According to Turner, most methods currently used to detect fires are extremely outdated, including having a person in a tower keeping watch.

Fire Shield aims to use automated monitoring cameras, drones, satellite technology, remote sensing and machine learning, to redesign how fires are detected, and even preempted.

"We know that every minute saved in detecting a fire improves the effectiveness of the response and reduces the fire's destructive potential, so there is huge opportunity to apply new technologies to this challenge," Turner said.

Estimates suggest that the initiative could save not just lives, but billions of dollars in the process, with every dollar spent on prevention saving 10 times that amount in response and recovery costs.

"In the past two decades, natural disasters have wrought havoc on Australian communities, killing people, wildlife and farm animals, devastating millions of hectares of our forests and bushland, wiping out farms and homes, and causing more than 120 billion Australian dollars in damage (87.8 billion U.S. dollars)," Turner said.

"The impacts of climate change will only make this worse."

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