I have compiled a list of resources both for the public and fire researchers related to wildfire. There are maps, smoke forecasts, as well as resources to prepare your home for wildfires. I also encourage you to look at our NFPA report: Preparing for Disaster: Workshop on Advancing WUI Resilience which outlines key strategies we can take now to prevent future destruction.
Most of the questions I receive from the public relate to current wildfire incidents. Sometimes the most up to date information for the public is available on Twitter, but there are many other well-validated resources below as well. What’s important to understand is that first responders are incredibly busy during the start of an incident and information can take time to get out. That means OBEY EVACUATION ORDERS, CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL AUTHORITIES, and SIGN UP FOR ALERTS. Incident commanders know what they’re doing and take into account how long it takes for you to get out and emergency resources to get in and defend an area. When you look at maps below and think “this map shows I don’t need to leave” – you didn’t read my primer on satellite detections below. This may be “more current” but it’s not what they see on the ground. They’re too busy to share that information in real time.
Beyond official alerts, every county has an official Twitter account, so does each CALFIRE region. Also useful – check the hashtags for each fire. I’ve found Twitter more reliable than Facebook or others for this information about an incident, but again this should never replace guidance from local officials.
Fire Detection Maps
- WIFIRE FireMap – WIFIRE Project map shows data from many sources – active fire detections, weather stations and cameras. Extra bonuses like smoke predictions, overlay satellite maps, past fire history, etc. It’s my go-to resource because it’s so versatile aggregating so much data.
- NWCG Map – The National Wildland Fire Coordinating Group has a pretty nice map available now. They show IR detection firelines from the night before, active incidents and some active fire maps.
- FireMappers Map – This map is new to me but has a great aggregation of satellite and other realtime data. I have found it very useful as it also shows some crowdsourced new starts for early information sharing.
- Pyregence Forecast – California Forecasts for fire spread as well as local fire risk. Probably the most complete daily local fire risk (with many options to display) available publicly in California.
- NASA Satellite Detections – Gives a worldwide view of MODIS and VIIRS detections. Aggregated on many other maps with other information, but a worldwide view is provided here.
- Alertwildfire.org – Observation cameras across the state. Also displayed in WIFIRE Map.
- InciWeb – This federal site shows major fires in the US, but not with many of the other tools. The NWCG map above is a new version with many more features but this is a clean and direct site.
- CALFIRE Incident Map (Good official information but usually only updated daily)
- Inciweb – – major fire incidents in the US that federal authorities are responding to
- NOAA HRRR Smoke – Smoke predictions across the continental US based on High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) weather modeling. Select the near-surface smoke forecast to see what
- CIRES resources – This is a great collection of air quality resources and descriptions. A few of my own that I commonly use are listed below.
- Airnow -Great federal resource showing smoke forecasts, live air quality, etc.
- Bluesky – Here you can find USFS runs of smoke forecasts for different regions.
- Purple Air – This network of home sensors may not be calibrated and the most accurate – but with so many home sensors there’s a nice density to give you an idea of air pollution problems near you (focused on PM2.5 – particulates).
Getting Ready for Wildfire
- Prepare for Wildfire – IBHS is a great resource with steps to take for your home
- Ready for Wildfire – A great California Resource
- NFPA – Wildfire Resource – Great resources preparing your home for wildfire
- UCANR – has a great set of fire resources
- SF Chronicle – has great news and coverage of California fires, especially in Northern California.
- Wildfire Today – Bill Gabbert does a great job reporting about fires around the country. Not a real-time update but he keeps it quite updated.
- Wildfire.gov FTP – Federal wildfire incident repository. Not all information is public but some is.
- Historical ICS-209 Reports
- Pyregence Data
- California Forest Observatory – local fuel and ecology information at fine scales
A Primer on Satellite Fire Detections
MODIS and VIIRS detections are taken from the Terra, Aqua and Suomi NPP satellites usually once in the morning and evening of California. More on the detection program is here. The important point is VIIRS has much higher resolution than MODIS.
GOES West is also used on some sites now. These pixels are LARGE. So just because there is “hot” in the square doesn’t mean it’s on fire. That really goes for all these detections, but because GOES can update as much as every 15 minutes, that temporal resolution is sometimes worth worse spatial resolution.
There are also night-time fire maps done in IR by plane by the USFS (NIROPS). These also are mapped and many maps used to show these, but now only a few since there was a change in how they are shared. These are often taken in the middle of the night.
A Note on Fire Predictions
Notice I didn’t share any fire “prediction” tools yet? Well, it is a little dangerous to share things too prematurely. We don’t have the ability to actively assimilate and update fire predictions like we do for weather. We are getting close and there is one new product to share below by the Pyregence collaboration.
Pyregence Forecast – (Open with Chrome Desktop) – there are two main features, an ELMFIRE-based simulation of current fires (Active forecast) showing where they will MIGHT GO (updated nightly) and a fire risk forecast for the next day. A lot of caution must be applied to this spread, it’s done without assimilation and 50% probabilities are shown. Still, it gives a potential idea and you can tell what may grow somewhat larger over the next few days. The fire risk forecast is really useful – showing local potential areas of heightened fire risk.