New computer program rapidly detects homes, buildings damaged by wildfires

29 December 2021

A new computer program powered by artificial intelligence takes mere minutes to determine whether homes and buildings have been destroyed by wildfires once the smoke has cleared.

Developed by scientists at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and Stanford University, DamageMap evaluates the destruction by scrutinizing post-wildfire aerial and satellite images.

Residents of the Santa Cruz Mountains who were evacuated during the CZU Lightning Complex fire in the summer of 2020 say that having such a program would have relieved them of a lot of stress and anguish.

“I spent days thinking, ‘My house could be burning right now,’” said Lisa Smith Beasley, a Boulder Creek resident who was ordered to leave her home during the devastating event.

Beasley’s home survived the flames. But she and other residents of the greater Bay Area often waited weeks to hear from authorities whether their homes had made it.

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