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Spring Quarter 2024

Congratulations to the 2024 Wildland Fire Challenge Winners

Grand Prize: Raindrops: improving aerial firefighting with sustainable packaging (Chris Copans and Mark Leone) 

2nd place: Quantifying the chemical composition and health implications of fine particulate matter in wildfire smoke in the continguous US (Emma Krasovich Southworth) 

Best us of Planet data: Skalen AI for Enhanced Wildfire Prediction: The Maui Case Study (Nathan Zhao, Bryana Gastelum, Ting-Yu Chang)


Challenges/Focus Areas

This year’s Big Earth hackathon is focused on addressing the multi-faceted, highly critical and challenging topic of wildland fires. We have identified three focus areas, described below, that are particularly important and have potential for innovative data-driven solutions. Teams can define projects in any of these areas, or at the intersection of one or more areas.

Diagram of Scales


Wildland fires affect many different segments of the population. Impacts range from injuries, or even death, to property loss or damage, from dislocation to temporary or long-term health impacts, both directly or indirectly. In this focus area, you are challenged to find which groups are affected by the risk, occurrence and recovery from wildland fires and to what extent. You may extend your study by looking at what strategies/policies could be put in place to promote equity and fairness.

Diagram of Magnifying Glass


In recent years, wildland fires have become both more prevalent and more devastating. The fire season and fire regions are also shifting. In the meantime, more and more people live in the wildland-urban interface where the risk of fires is higher.  In this focus area, you are asked to consider related questions, such as: which communities, areas, and structures in California are at greatest risk of wildfires now and in the future; what are the health impacts of smoke, both near and far-field; and what is the efficiency of existing evacuation routes and response efforts?

Yellow sign for Fire Alert


Current mitigation strategies for wildland fires include controlled burns, public safety power shutoffs, removing fuel in at-risk areas, and others. In this focus area, you are asked to shed light on which are the most effective and efficient mitigation efforts for wildland fire risk. Are traditional efforts effective or are there better alternatives available? Another way of formulating this quest: can you advise on what mitigation strategies can give communities, or California as a whole the “best bang for the buck”?

Main Sponsors

We are grateful also for the following contributors