Saturday, September 26, 2009

Guiberson Fire 2009/09/26

This GeoCam photo covering a broad area of fire damage will be used to help guide post-fire rehabilitation efforts (credit: Scott Quirarte / CAL FIRE).

Our console in the Situation Unit room. At top is a geotagged photo viewed as a billboard in Google Earth. At bottom is a 2D map in a browser.

Today the fire continued to wind down, but we had several repeat users from yesterday asking to use the phones again. We collected 40 more geotagged photos with 6 phones issued to field observers spread across the Fire Behavior, Damage Assessment, and Rehabilitation Groups.

Fire behavior predicts how the fire will spread based on factors like fuel and weather. Damage assessment estimates the cost of the fire, often documenting property damage with local landowners. Rehabilitation plans to minimize the after-effects of the fire and the response, things like repairing roads damaged by heavy trucks and shoring up soil to prevent landslides. All these groups use field observers and we think GeoCam can help with all of them.

Today we got some great feedback that will help us improve the system:
  • GIS Specialist Todd Tuggle advised us to deprioritize the goal of making a local GeoCam server work stand-alone on a LAN without relying on connectivity to the rest of the Internet. He says the network has become so important to their operations that they pretty much always invest the resources to make it happen (at least at "project fires" that keep growing past initial attack). If we follow his advice it will greatly simplify our software development.
  • We successfully exported Friday's photo positions as points in an ESRI shapefile that their GIS tools could read in, and the GIS guys said they expect it to be a huge time saver for them when constructing maps. They are also really excited about allowing field observers to select icons from the fire symbology.
  • An important issue we were unaware of is the approval process for new map data. Typically all new data needs to be approved by both the Sit Unit Leader and the branch or division chief for that area. In the future we'll need to provide separate views of "approved data" (for all responder personnel) and "all data" (restricted to folks involved in the approval process). This is to prevent people on the line from making decisions based on bad data.
  • Several field observers told us battery life is a problem on the phones. We may invest in booster packs that can charge our phones from the AA batteries that are found everywhere in fire camps.
We'll demobilize tomorrow. Thanks a lot to everyone at the fire for giving GeoCam a try, especially our host Buddy Bloxham, Chief Lewin, and our "fixer" Tom Zajkowski who was a huge help with everything!

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