Tech Zone

Wildfire Maps Aid FEMA Mission

Issue 5 and Volume 161.

By JoAnne Castagna Out-of-control wildfires swept across southern California this past fall, leaving in their path death and destruction. Twenty raging brush fires were fanned by strong winds that quickly spread to seven counties. Homes were burned to the ground, hundreds of acres of forest were destroyed, and thousands of people were left homeless. A precise method was needed to help in locating and assisting displaced people. In response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sought the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Geographic Information System (GIS) expertise and capability. The Corps had used its GIS expertise on several past missions, including during Hurricane Katrina and on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. The maps helped FEMA to identify territories in the scorched counties affected and to help locate displaced people requiring assistance, such as temporary trailers, and to protect the state from potential safety hazards that can result from these…

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