A wildfire is a quickly and frequently changing situation – the fire's perimeter fluctuates, evacuation and pre-evacuation areas change, and the locations of active burn areas are constantly moving. Given this kind of fluid data, it's often hard for the public to get the vital up-to-date information they need to deal.
For the 416 Fire near Durango, helping get out that kind of timely and essential information is where Fort Lewis College comes in. Shortly after the 416 Fire ignited and quickly grew on June 1, Assistant Professor of Geosciences Mickey Campbell reached out to La Plata County's Office of Emergency Management to offer his expertise in geographic information systems mapping and remote sensing. He also has a research emphasis in fire and firefighter safety mapping.
"Of course, in wildland fire situations, resources are spread pretty thin among the emergency management and incident response agencies," Campbell says, "so they were more than happy to have me contribute."
Collaborating with La Plata County's OEM and GIS departments, FireWise Southwest Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain Type I Incident Response Team that manages the firefighting, Campbell developed a GIS map hosted on FLC's servers but that is available to everyone.
The interactive map shows where the fire is burning and its burn footprint, as well as which areas are under evacuation or pre-evacuation orders. The map also allows residents to enter an address to see their distance from the active fire area and any orders covering their location.
Campbell maintains the map based on updates he receives every morning from La Plata County and the National Interagency Fire Center. Once the map went live, it was visited more than 10,000 times in just four days.
"I was really happy to have been given the opportunity to help out with the emergency management operations," Campbell says. "As devastating as they can be, events like the 416 Fire really show how well communities can come together and work as a cohesive unit to protect and support one another."
Click on the map below to see the live interactive map.