Igniting Innovation: U.S. Fire Administration and XPRIZE Join Forces to Tackle Wildfires

Nov 17 2023

Cat Kutz

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Today, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a key component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and XPRIZE Foundation officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), launching a transformational collaboration aimed at revolutionizing wildfire management. Representing their organizations, Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, U.S Fire Administrator, and Peter Houlihan, Executive Vice President for Biodiversity and Conservation at XPRIZE signed the agreement during the Hawaii Fire Chiefs Association Annual Conference in Kauai, Hawaii, setting the stage for an impactful partnership. After the signing, USFA and XPRIZE representatives visited with researchers engaged in testing new technology for wildfire detection and met with officials and local fire personnel in Lahaina, Maui, as they recover from the catastrophic wildfires.

The USFA, dedicated to supporting and strengthening the U.S. fire and emergency medical services, has joined forces with XPRIZE, a global leader in incentivizing innovation through competitions. Together, they will cooperate to spur the development and uptake of technological innovation for rapid, precise, and accurate wildfire detection, and suppression applications. The collaboration between USFA and XPRIZE signifies a united front against the escalating threat of destructive wildfire events, combining the expertise of a federal agency with the innovation prowess of a non-profit working to help solve the world’s greatest challenges through incentivized competitions. Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell remarked that “this MOU is reflective of the urgent need to bring an all-hands approach, including innovative tech, to the global wildfire challenge."

The collaborative efforts between USFA and XPRIZE will focus on the following key areas:

Innovating Wildfire Technology: Supporting innovative technical solutions enabling firefighters to detect, respond, and fight wildfires more safely, efficiently, and effectively in the wildfire urban interface (WUI) and in communities where drought-driven fire moves quickly, thereby protecting lives and property.

Raising Public Awareness and Engaging Communities: Leveraging their combined outreach to educate and engage communities to raise public awareness around the challenges and opportunities faced by the USFA and the more than 1.4 million career and volunteer firefighters it supports; foster safer communities and build community resilience/readiness.

Increase Stakeholder Engagement: Increase the number of individuals engaged in fire prevention activities through targeted stakeholder engagement and public-private partnerships, especially with nontraditional technology-based partners, including IT, robotics, and engineering.

Integrating New Technology: Support additional efforts in the United States to reduce the impact of wildfire on the nation through the advancement of innovative technologies and collaborations to enhance methodologies for addressing the increasing impacts and severity of wildfires worldwide, serving to simultaneously enhance climate-related national security efforts.

This collaboration is a powerful step towards a future where destructive wildfires are met with proactive and effective strategies. By fostering innovation, raising awareness, increasing stakeholder engagement, and integrating new technologies, the USFA and XPRIZE are working hand in hand to mitigate the impact of wildfires on communities and ecosystems, wildland firefighters, and the environment.

“At XPRIZE we run competitions that ultimately foster collaboration, bringing people, institutions, sectors, agencies, and nations together across barriers and silos, aligned with a shared vision towards driving solutions. Partnerships are crucial to scaling global impact and catalyzing effective change in the world at the time we need it; now,” shared Peter Houlihan.

As the MOU is signed during the Hawaii Fire Chiefs Association Annual Meeting, it symbolizes not only a commitment to addressing the immediate wildfire crisis but also a shared vision for a safer and more resilient future. Together, the USFA and XPRIZE are set to spark a revolution in how we manage wildfires, ushering in a new era of cooperation and innovation in the fight against this ever-growing threat.

Cat Kutz