State to launch wildfire mapping site

State to launch wildfire mapping site

16 September 2011

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USA — Texans will soon have a cutting-edge system to pinpoint wildfire danger in their own backyards. The Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal is an online mapping tool that will launch late this year.

This will be the primary mechanism for the Texas Forest Service to send risk information and create awareness about wildfires in the state. The system will have three main features:

Public Viewer

Users can zoom to any place in Texas to ask “What’s Your Risk?” They will be able to find their risk level within a two-mile radius, plus information on how to reduce their risk.

Professional Viewer

Local governments will be able to better plan their wildfire protection with this tool. The highlights include the capability to define a project area, generate a detailed risk summary report, and export and download wildfire risk GIS data.

Fire Occurrence Explorer

Users will be able to analyze historic fire occurrences. This will help them sort out previous causes of fire in their area.

Texas Forest Service said the system should launch in November or December.

In addition to that wildfire feature, TFS is also working on a plan to divvy up the volunteer firefighter funds available in the midst of a very costly wildfire season. During the past legislative session, lawmakers cut the amount available from $30 million to $7 million to help volunteer fire departments fight fires across the state.

On Thursday, TFS announced another $27 million for the Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program. Part of the way the state will award those grants will now deal with a VFD’s wildfire situation.

“TFS is seeking input from constituent fire departments on how to best incorporate and implement wildfire risk into the ranking system,” said TFS spokeswoman Linda Moon. “An electronic survey is being developed and on schedule to be distributed in November.”

Moon said the new VFD ranking is set to launch in March 2012, when funds will likely be distributed.

“The higher the risk, the better they’re going to get grant funding for personal protective clothing or training assistance,” said Chris Barron, executive director of the State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association.

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