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Wildfires Spark Entrepreneurial Spirit In Four Students From Charlotte

by Maija Ehlinger

While western states may first come to mind when it comes to wildfires, evacuations on the Florida Panhandle this week are a reminder that the Southeast is actually one of the more active fire areas in the country.  

That was something a group of North Carolina high schoolers saw firsthand. While students at Providence Day School in Charlotte, co-founders Kevin Kasapr, Nandita Balaji, Zoe Sherman, and Shreyas Bhasin experienced the harmful smoke effects from a fire burning 100 miles away. They wanted to develop a better way to detect fires before those flames spread and impacted local communities. 

The result was InfernoGuard, a wildfire notification system that has become a breakout college-founded startup. 

The technology is attached directly to trees in remote environments to gather temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and other key environmental data points.  

11 different environmental and topographical factors can be analyzed down to the 10th of an acre. 

The goal, Kasapr explained to Hypepotamus, is to “continuously monitor wildfire threats, and report information to the landowner and first responders directly through our mobile application.” This data-driven approach is crucial for those living in remote areas who have traditionally relied on word-of-mouth when it comes to new or worsening fire threats. 

The co-founders graduated from high school in 2020 and are now spread across the country for college. But the remote-first world has helped the team scale to 15 people with plans to fully launch the product this summer.

Their respective university systems have been instrumental in the company’s development, as the team has leveraged entrepreneurial centers at Johns Hopkins, Lehigh, and Northwestern. InfernoGuardo recently took home the Climate Change Grand Prize ($100,000) at the 2022 Arizona State University (ASU) Innovation Open and $15,000 from Johns Hopkins’ FastForward U’s Fuel accelerator.

But North Carolina remains an important hub and “launching pad” for the growing team. Enventys Partners, based out of Charlotte, is helping bring the product to market.

Spring is prime time for wildfires in the Southeast, according to data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center. And then, of course, wildfire season begins in earnest out in California, Oregon, and across the West. 

InfernoGuard told Hypepotamus that the team will be conducting product testing in controlled burn environments this spring with plans to deploy to select paid pilot deployments customers over the summer. 

Yosemite National Park and Wildlands Conservancy in California will serve as key testing partners for the device.  



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