Detecting Wildfires

PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

MASSIVE BLAZE: Firefighters try to contain California’s Dixie Fire on August 17, 2021. It would grow to be the second-largest wildfire in state history.

In 2018, Ryan Honary watched one of the deadliest wildfires in California history, the Camp Fire, devastate his home state. The experience inspired the eighth-grader from Newport Beach to invent a system that can help detect wildfires early—before the blazes grow out of control.

Ryan decided to create a system of low-cost, solar-powered sensors, which could be placed in locations with a high risk for wildfires. If the instruments sense heat, smoke, or flames, they are programmed to send a signal to mini meteorological stations. The stations can then send an alert to an app on a phone or other device, notifying people that their communities may be in danger.

HAND ROBOT/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM (PHONE); COURTESY OF RYAN HONARY (ALL OTHER IMAGES)

TEEN INVENTOR: Ryan Honary withhis wildfire-detection system and app (inset). His invention finished in the top 30 at the 2021 Broadcom MASTERS, a national STEM competition for middle school students.

These stations can also use the information they collect to create a computer-generated model that predicts where the fire might spread. Ryan says this could help firefighters decide where they need to act first to better contain the fire and protect the people in its path. 

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