November is wildfire season in California, and this year has been no exception. Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse than 2017 / 2018, it did.
Unfortunately it can be super hard to get good information about wildfires while they are happening. This is mainly due to every local news station eagerly exploiting tragedy for readership. Googling a fire returns pages of poorly and hastily written articles that contain, at best, out of date information (but plenty of shocking cell phone video) and at worst no information at all.
If you are in danger of wildfire, you should always follow the direction of your local emergency agencies.
If you’re one of the other 40 million Californians that just want get some straight information about fire boundaries, conditions and smoke without all the hysteria and FUD, here are some official and reliable sources:
InciWeb is an incident information system provided by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG). Basically, it aggregates the latest information about wildfires directly from the local agencies that are in the affected area.
The site provides basic information, the current situation, outlook and latest reports from the commander(s) on the fire. This is the most reliable place to get information such as cause, location, size, containment, as well total personnel and estimated containment dates.
I guarantee InciWeb is where 99% of all local news companies get their information. Skip the middleman.
National Fire Situational Awareness Map
The National Fire Situational Awareness Map is an interactive map that overlays data directly from infrared satellites that can detect fire from orbit. This data is used to make a map that very accurately shows where fires are burning at any one moment. It also displays historical burn areas. Absolutely the best way to see where and how hot a fire is burning. This service is also provided by the NWCG.
NASA EOSDIS Worldview
Wile not specific to wildfires, Nasa’s Worldview application is another interactive map that shows near realtime satellite images of the earth as quickly as 3 hours after observation. This is very similar to the National Fire Situational Awareness Map except that it displays it’s data in the optical instead of infrared, and it allows you to go back in time. This is super useful for viewing current air quality conditions and tracking smoke as it moves across the state (and country). An amazing resource provided by the good folks at NASA.
Those are my go-to’s. Do you have other resources you use during wildfire season? If so, let me know in the comments!