NEWS BRIEFS: New fire lookouts will be manned by artificial intelligence, and more.

Plus, Spokane approves increase to developer fees for roads and utilities; and Inslee opposes pipeline expansion.

click to enlarge NEWS BRIEFS: New fire lookouts will be manned by artificial intelligence, and more.
Pano AI photo
New eyes in the sky will help quickly spot fires.

While manned fire watchtowers are mostly a thing of the past, computers could soon fill in to help firefighters spot fires and respond faster. Washington is partnering with tech company Pano AI to station 360-degree cameras on towers around the state to help quickly identify smoke and fires. Coupled with satellite data, the company's artificial intelligence can help pinpoint the location of fires and quickly send firefighters information on the closest water sources and roads to the site. "It's providing significantly more data, significantly faster, about the nature of these fire starts," says Ryan Rodruck, a spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources. "The tech is phenomenal. What stuck out to me was just how fast we can get visualization and data on these fire starts. It's going to significantly improve response time." The full rollout of the pilot program is expected by the end of June 2024. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)


Spokane's Latah/Grandview Thorpe area is prime real estate — the kind of spot where, in theory, huge numbers of houses could be built. But for decades, the city of Spokane didn't build infrastructure — like sewers, water and roads — on pace with the area's growing population. The solution: The City Council voted 6-1 on Monday night to increase "impact fees" on developers of new homes to pay for the necessary infrastructure upgrades. Developers, Realtors and homebuilders opposed the fee change, the first increase to the fees in 20 years. "While this body is still talking about affordable and attainable housing, you are considering an ordinance that would do the opposite," said Tom Hormel, president of the Spokane Association of Realtors. But City Council President Breean Beggs says the question wasn't about the price tag — the question was who pays. While Mayor Nadine Woodward preferred to spread out the fees throughout the city, the council voted to create varying fees for different parts of the city — the highest in Latah Valley — while waiving utility fees for homeowners making less than $75,000 a year. (DANIEL WALTERS)


As critics hoped, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said last week he opposes the proposed expansion of a natural gas pipeline that runs through the Inland Northwest. As we reported on March 2, TC Energy, the Canadian company that owns the Keystone Pipeline System, wants to expand capacity for its Gas Transmission Northwest pipeline. The company proposes increasing compression to allow more natural gas to go through existing pipes. In a March 10 letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Inslee asked regulators to deny the project as it conflicts with emissions reductions goals, noting that "if GTN continues business as usual with its pipeline in 2050, it would represent 48 percent of the region's target greenhouse gas emissions from all sources." Meanwhile, Kootenai County's Board of Commissioners supported the expansion in a February letter, saying the pipeline has operated safely for decades and brings economic benefits to the communities around it. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

Spokane Falls Two-Spirit Powwow @ Riverfront Park

Fri., June 9, 1-9 p.m.
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