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Thomas Fire

Unit Information

Los Padres National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
Goleta, CA 93117

USFS Shield

Fire Mapping

Thomas Fire Wildfire
News – 12/17/2017

The primary objective for fire mapping is to provide information for firefighters, fire management and the public.

Accurate mapping is an essential fire support tool and takes many formats and scales. Map products include operational, fire progression, transportation, and briefing maps.

Maps are derived from a variety of sources, depending upon intended use, and accuracy is required. Generally, base maps are developed from current aerial and satellite photography. Both contour maps and flat base maps are used depending upon specific needs. Geographic information specialists (GIS) use data gathered in the field to produce these maps in fire camp.

Operational maps

These detailed maps highlight planned and completed fire line, perimeter of open line, drop points, division and branch breaks and pertinent features for the given period. Accuracy of this data is verified by using global positioning system (GPS) equipment.

Topographic Maps

For tactical mapping needs, the topographic base series is used to record known fire perimeters. Topographic maps aid strategy planning based on specific terrain conditions and to plan safety zones for firefighter safety.

Briefing Maps

A variety of different kinds of maps are expanded to an extra large scale to be used for pre-shift briefing, media interviews, and public meetings. These maps are simplified compared to operational maps and feature fire perimeter and control lines in relation to local communities, major roads, and prominent landmarks.

Infrared Mapping

Use of infrared imagery is applied to accurately plot critical hot spots in the fire progression as well as to determine where to best position critical suppression forces. This data is collected by aerial and fixed surveillance and by use of probe-eye hand held scanners. A very small sized ember can be detected and plotted.

From this data, a ground firefighter can calculate accurate GPS coordinates to locate the hot spot in a minimum of time. Infrared mapping can also be used for mapping different fuel types, human activity, vehicle use and more depending upon the heat signature.

Fire Predictive Maps

Fire predictive maps are developed through computer modelling to estimate probable rate and direction of spread, as well as fire size

Fire Progression

Fire progression maps are used for plotting fire growth daily. This mapping is used by operation planning specialists for advanced tactical decisions, fire behavior modeling, and administrative analysis.

This is just the beginning of the types of maps used on a wildland fire, other types of mapping predict general fire readiness on a weekly, monthly or seasonal basis using a series that identifies fuel moisture by size class, fire related weather, and fire danger ratings by weather station zones, recording lightning strikes, live fuel moisture conditions and other fuel modeling parameters.

For today's maps, please see information map, fire history map and progression map.