The Mediterranean coasts are burning; not only destroying hundreds of hectares and ecosystems but also claiming many lives in Algeria, Greece and Italy. Canada and other countries are also facing a huge destruction. We must act upon this challenge. Increased resources and prevention are needed but technology can also play an important role in improved prevention, mitigation and extinction methods.
Wildfires are a worldwide threat that wreak havoc as they are happening at an unprecedented scale. Millions of hectares are burnt every year, with the consequent destruction of soil, ecosystems and infrastructures.
However, they may also have worse consequences than the burning of green areas, such as their impact on air quality and the increase of CO2 emissions. According to data published by the CAMS Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS), in the summer of 2022 total wildfire emissions in the EU and the United Kingdom were estimated at 6.4 megatonnes of carbon, the highest level reached since 2007.
European fires in numbers
Climate change has increased the chances of wildfires in Europe. A report published by the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) shows that in 2021 Europe faced a fire season marked by very large fires in August, particularly in Turkey and Greece. Although some protected areas were less affected, other countries such as Italy and Spain experienced sharp increases from 2020. One year later, in 2022, more than 786,049 hectares were burnt in the EU according to the information system provided by the European Union.
According to the EFFIS statistics app, in 2023 some European countries have experienced a larger number of fires than their annual average from 2006-2022: the annual average of fires in Ireland is 16.08, while in 2023 it has seen 30 fires; the annual average in France is 72.35, while in 2023 it has seen 209 fires; or Spain, whose annual average is 192.82 and in 2023 it has experienced 324 fires.
Figure 1. Number of fires from 2006-2022. Source: EFFIS
In light of the numbers, the EU is implementing a new EU climate adaptation strategy to build a resilient Europe and mitigate the negative consequences of climate change, such as the impact of forest fires.
As further advances and improvements are needed to prevent and control wildfires, a whole new startup industry is born: FireTech, an industry focused on developing technology to target fires, from prevention and risk mitigation to suppression and recovery.
What is FireTech?
FireTech is an emerging area that involves the development and application of technologies for wildfire risk management such as digitization, mechanization, and materials.
Therefore, this industry encompasses a range of practices and technologies aimed at understanding and addressing the challenges associated with wildfires. It includes four key areas of wildfire risk management: risk assessment, mitigation and risk reduction, early detection and response, and recovery and adaptation.
Thanks to the application of technology and innovative approaches in the field of firetech, the impact of wildfires can be mitigated and fire management practices can be improved, which is crucial for safeguarding lives, protecting ecosystems, and minimizing property damage caused by these natural disasters.
The beginnings and evolution of Firetech
As a result of the increasing risk of wildfires and their devastating impacts, local authorities, businesses, and communities seek new technologies for wildfire risk management.
Although the term ‘FireTech’ was coined only a few years ago, the technology used to combat wildfires already existed in the last century. However, it was more related to firefighting applications. Modern uses of Firetech refer to technologies that serve for more varied purposes.
This way, technologies are being developed to augment wildfire risk assessment, forecasting and prediction, early fire detection, incident management, and information and communication management, including notification and evacuation systems.
As a result, some Venture Capital firms are investing in those startup founders bringing a fresh perspective and innovative tools to this field, with the subsequent birth of the FireTech industry.
Trends and main investors in FireTech
According to the information provided by Kodama and other institutions such as Omdena, FireTech Connect and Tech Funding News, the following are some of the most well-known venture-backed startups that are addressing the global wildfire crisis. They have been classified according to the innovative technology they are using and according to their purpose:
Figure 2. FireTech Market Map
Some institutions are promoting collaboration between the private sector, nonprofits, and the government, for instance, Blue Forest. This group deploys private capital to finance forest restoration projects on private and public lands, in order to reduce the risk of mega wildfires.
VCs are also becoming more and more interested in those startups developing FireTech solutions. VCs such as Convective Capital are exclusively focused on financing this type of technology, while others such as Fyrfly Venture Partners have included FireTech among their verticals.
VCs and Accelerators funding Firetech startups
Here are some of the VCs funding FireTech startups:
Convective Capital is a venture firm based in San Francisco that funds startups seeking to end the wildfire crisis. They envision a future where technology works in concert with firefighters, land managers, homeowners and community leaders to make us all safer and protect our resources and environment.
They strongly believe startups developing this type of technology must be backed as FireTech provides the most exciting opportunity to fight climate change. This way, their latest fund raised $35M to invest in wildfire startups.
Domino.One is a powerful new incubator, accelerator and consultancy with deep expertise and a wide range of capabilities to help businesses and governments prosper in the growing importance of social impact.
Within their FireTech Accelerator, they accelerate next gen companies in high-demand areas such as fire prevention, firefighting, suppression, monitoring and alerting, etc.
Fyrfly Venture Partners
Fyrfly Ventures is a Silicon Valley and Switzerland based venture capital firm investing early in entrepreneurs transforming industries with data. They invest across North America and Europe.
This way, although they are not mainly focused on FireTech, they fund startups from a wide variety of industries, being climate and environment among them.
The FireTech Connect program is an initiative of the Peregian Digital Hub, a leading technology incubator based in Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Firetech Connect provides a platform to partners such as emergency services agencies, enterprises and regional councils for trialing innovative bushfire technologies. The platform comprises:
- A pre-qualified global network of over 70 technology solution providers,
- Project funding and RFP framework for conducting pilot trials,
- A Living Laboratory in which solutions can be trialed and assessed.