InciWeb Incident Information System Website

The InciWeb site has a wealth of information regarding wildfires across the U.S. InciWeb is an Incident Information System maintained by multiple government agencies. (See link at right.)

The reported incidents can be wildfires, “Burned Area Emergency Response” incidents, “Mass Casualty” incidents (e.g., the recent mudslide in Washington state), or prescribed burns. The “Burned Area Emergency Response” type of incident includes details on what government entities plan to do after a fire, such as seeding and mulching.

Since the site includes information for the whole country, the mechanism for filtering by state (at the top right of the page) is very useful. In addition, a box labeled Data Filter (on the right side of the page) allows you to select incidents based on how old the incident is, whether it’s is active or not, and what type of incident you wish to see. The maximum age of incidents defaults to 90 days so, if you’re looking for an older fire, be sure and change that parameter. You can search for fires occurring up to 365 days ago. Although the maximum age listed in the search box is 365 days, older data is sometimes available. For instance, information for the Las Conchas fire near Santa Fe is available even though it occurred in 2011. Older fires are available only if their data has been updated within the last 365 days.

Once you’ve selected a particular fire, the tabs at the top of the page provide detailed information on location, official announcements, press releases, photographs, and maps. Official announcements are more frequent than the press releases, and are usually focused on a single issue such as public meetings or evacuations. Announcements are added daily. Press releases are longer descriptions of the fire’s status, and include the estimated acreage affected by the fire, cause, percent containment, detailed weather report, and a listing of hazards. Hazards include road closures, forest closures, flooding issues. Press releases are updated daily. Some of the photographs of the fires are amazing, as are the maps. These maps are NOT just Google maps with a red dot for the fire location. The site includes maps that show the progression of a fire with colors representing affected areas for subsequent days, and the march of colors across the map clearly shows the fire’s progression. IR (Infrared) Flight maps use infrared imaging to distinguish what areas of a fire are “scattered heat”, “intense heat”, etc. You can see clearly the intensity and development of a fire from these maps. Public Information maps show the fire perimeter on a specific date, but they also include roads, towns and other landmarks which make them more useful for understanding the exact extent of the fire. Progression maps show the fire perimeter and county boundaries, but they are focused on the topology of the area.

When you’re looking at a particular fire, the list of links on the right side is extremely comprehensive. Some links are general fire information such as a listing of Frequently Asked Questions. But the links also include “Incident Cooperators” so you could access any governmental organization involved with a particular fire. In addition, links allow you to quickly follow an incident on Twitter, or get an RSS feed as well as sharing the information via Facebook.

Again, this site does not post new fires as quickly as the New Mexico Fire Information site. But, because of the detailed information available on InciWeb, this site is more useful for following a fire that lasts days or weeks.

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