Cornea eyes in on fighting wildfires using better data – TechCrunch

It is not yet the season of fire thanks to some breathing room for firefighters and emergency responders planned to face the increasingly complex and unclear task of stopping and responding to fires in the American West Could. Wildfires have been particularly intense in the region in recent years in states such as California, mostly due to climate-induced conditions, deterioration of grid infrastructure, which can cause sparks, and ripening for felling and collision of trees food.

After years of fire brigades, some startups are exploring how to improve fire response. is one of them CorneaA spin-up of sorts by a public sector-focused enterprise studio The hangar, Which raised $ 15 million last year Creating new startups to target the government.

One of Hanger’s first companies was back in the cornea a few years ago, and remains one of the most interesting for its potential. The idea is to melt geographic, weather, and historical fire data into a machine learning model that can enhance frontline firefighters with improved guidance for moving and retreating in the middle of a bang.

The startup has two main products that it intends to launch this year. The first focuses on providing better situational awareness around a topic known as the “Suppression Difficulty Index” among firefighters. These are essentially maps that report fire hazards in a very specific geographical location. For example, a particular location may have wind or water conditions that can intensify fire and hazard responders if they are not careful.

The other product focuses on “potential control lines” – locations where a fire or other action could potentially push the fire back. Using typography, botany and a myriad of other data, the cornea can detect the condition with a high probability of success in battling fire.

The cornea’s chief fire officer is Tom Harbor, who formerly served a decade as head of fire response for the US Forest Service. He said that “50 years ago, I stood in a culture where you never knew the ‘why’ – you followed the order” when it came to decision-making in the field. “Your head was on a cosmic swivel.” With Cornea and the products the company is developing, we are getting started on the basis of “why” [firefighters] Feel the information they are seeing. “

Harbor said that the most common tools in the area today are paper maps and markers, because “you know it doesn’t break right when you can’t break things.” Products of the cornea can help firefighters in the area, but they are more likely to have an impact in firefighting centers, where strategic decisions are made about where to invest firefighting resources.

Hanger founder and managing partner Josh Mendelson said the company is directly below the center of the studio’s investment thesis. “Cornea focuses on taking these large datasets, processing them effectively… and then delivering them. [firefighters] The same analytical effect in an output as possible, “he said,” it shows that the best user experience in this market is a PDF. “

Indeed, one of the major challenges to manufacturing in this market is the unique dynamic of disaster response compared to enterprise SaaS. “The cornea has undergone a customer-discovery process,” Mendelson said. “All of this seems necessary, but are the right things that require minimal behavior change to take effect immediately?” One challenge, particularly around firefighting, is the feedback loop for the team from the field. “The fire is seasonal, so we had to be a little incremental,” Mendelsohn said.

The team are currently consultants with three full-time people, as well as their own studio staff with hangars. The company partially built its product, using federal research grants to deepen the science of fire fighting, and this year, hopes to work with the Forest Service and state fire agencies to bring its models to the frontline Does. “There’s a human bandwidth problem,” Mendelsohn said. “How do you get limited resources to help you?” [firefighters] Proceed using them effectively? “

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