Point and Click to Track Wildfire Activity in the United States

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Keep tabs on wildfire activity via this U.S. Geological Survey website, GeoMAC.

Wildfires continue to burn across much of the western United States, and 39,000 fires have scorched 5,899,245 acres this year as of August 7, 2017 according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Wildland Fire Map, GeoMAC
(Public domain.)

 

During a particularly heavy fire season 17 years ago, the USGS and partners identified the need to locate fires quickly for first responders, and started a consortium called the Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group. eventually building a website called GeoMAC to fill that void.  The website provides one-stop shopping for emergency managers, fire responders and public eager to track where fires are burning, and their intensities.

 

“GeoMAC integrates daily wildfire perimeters for the public and wildland fire community,” said Elizabeth Lile, USGS scientist and GeoMAC project manager. “This tool is also a great resource for the public seeking more information about exactly where fires are burning.”

 

GeoMAC is an internet-based mapping application that allows the public to access online maps of current fire locations and perimeters using standard web browsers. It is operated by the USGS in partnership with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Wildland Fire, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, and state agencies.

 

Since GeoMAC’s inception in 2000, technological advances have enabled the site to integrate various data layers into a single, comprehensive map image.

 

“These data layers don’t independently provide a complete view of the national wildland fire situation,” said Lile. “But, when they are integrated together with the capability to search and view the information, GeoMAC becomes useful tool for distributing timely information about U. S. wildland fires to interested parties around the world.”

 

Another unique feature of GeoMAC is the ability to choose various data layers to populate the map. Users can select current fire perimeters or display past fires dating back to 2002. The system also has the capability to show if previous fires were natural or human caused, and the size of the fire in acres.

 

Fire perimeter data are updated daily based on input from incident intelligence sources, GPS data and IR imagery from fixed wing and satellite platforms. The GeoMAC website allows users to manipulate map information displays, zoom in and out to show fire information at various scales and detail, including downloading desired perimeter data. The fire maps also have relational databases so that the user can display current information on individual fires such as name of the fire, current acreage, and other fire status information with just the click of a mouse.

By including fire detection data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite in conjunction with the active fire perimeters, the user is able to see the amount of area a fire has grown as well as the direction the fire is moving.

GeoMAC Fire Perimeters for the Lolo Peak, Montana, Wildfire
(Public domain.)

 

Other applications use the GeoMAC data by using Rich Site Summary (RSS) feeds, OpenGIS Web Map Service (WMS) Capabilities and other services. RSS is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers access the GeoMAC data in this fashion.  WMS provides a simple HTTP interface for requesting geo-registered map images.

 

All 2017 Wildfires, Past and Present via GeoMAC
(Public domain.)

 

In 2016, there were 138,606,391 visitor hits to the GeoMAC application.