Tracking Wild Fires with Pitney Bowes and Virtual Earth

image Some may be thinking Public Enemy prophets with their song “Burn Hollywood Burn” after seeing some of the destruction in Southern California. Chuck didn’t mention Montecito or Sylmar in the lyrics, though. Sadness to my peeps who still live down there. Come on guys! It happens somewhere in SoCal every year! It’s like the Bizarro California Lottery for crying out loud. Move. I digress. 

In an effort to prevent and manage these situations, Pitney Bowes Advanced Concepts and Technologies Group in collaboration with PB’s MapInfo Group has built out an extremely useful and timely application to provide data for those who want more information about the fires, are concerned about the fires or concerned about those fighting the fires around the United States. The application simply dubbed, The Fire Locator, has multiple dimensions of data to overlay atop a Microsoft Virtual Earth map with a Silverlight user experience. 


You can navigate the map to a specific area or use the geocoding box. The beauty is in the overlays. Check out this list of data feeds:

  • NASA Modis Data - NASA’s MODIS (or Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer) is a key instrument aboard the Terra (EOS AM) and Aqua (EOS PM) satellites. The data captured by these satellites include geothermal differences on the earth’s surface. This use of geothermal imaging shows hotspots that are likely to be wildfires.
  • Incident Information System (InciWeb) - InciWeb is an interagency information site that provides point information regarding the location of wildfires. InciWeb is a combination of data and information gathered from multiple government agencies. The data provided is accurate and updated frequently.
  • GeoMac Multi Agency Coordination (GeoMac) - GeoMac is an interagency website that provides fire perimeter data from various incident intelligence sources (e.g. GPS data, Infrared Imagery). GeoMac data is often updated on a daily basis, ensuring accuracy.
  • California Wildfire Risk Zones - The multiple components of MapInfo Risk Data Product Suite combine to give a detailed picture of the natural disaster history & potential risks in a region. FireLocator integrates with the wildfire component of this data to show classifications based on DRAFT model results for Fire Hazard Severity Zoning (FHSZ) developed in January 2007.
  • Aerial Thermal Imaging
  • Fire Boundaries
  • Flickr Photos
  • Local News Feeds

imageThe site even stores a repository of your own locations of interest. And, did you check out the opacity controls? The dashboard allows users to check on or off any of the data feeds (both vector and raster), but also control the opaqueness of the feeds. So, if you want to lighten or darken the raster layers, you can do so simply by shifting the control for the respective layer to the left or right respectively. Powerful AND easy to use!

You can read the press release for yourself, but a bit about the application from PB, “FireLocator is an application created by Pitney Bowes Advanced Concepts and Technologies (AC&T) in collaboration with Pitney Bowes MapInfo. Currently released in Beta at, this free, state-of-the-art site disseminates timely critical wildfire data and information to the public. FireLocator integrates data from multiple sources to provide users with comprehensive views of both current and past wildfires. By entering a target address in the address bar, users are able to mark a location of interest on the map using Pitney Bowes MapInfo’s geocoding technology. This allows users to track fires around a specific address, neighborhood, or area of interest.

Nice job guys; and again, very timely.


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