Google’s wildfire mapping feature on Search and Maps

Google’s wildfire mapping feature on Search and Maps.  

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Google launched a new wildfire boundary map in Search and Maps in the U.S., powered by satellite data and Google Earth Engine to provide information on areas impacted by an ongoing wildfire.

The new wildfire mapping feature shows approximate size and location of a given fire with other critical information, including evacuation orders and suppression plans on mobile and desktop devices.

“In moments like a growing wildfire, knowing exactly where a blaze is underway and how to avoid it is critical,” Yossi Matias, Vice President Engineering & Crisis Response Lead at Google said.

When people do a specific search like “wildfire in California” or “Kincade fire,” in addition to getting approximate location information of a wildfire, they will also be presented with news articles and helpful resources from local emergency agencies included in the SOS alert.

Wildfire boundary map in Search and Maps with other critical information on mobile.

Wildfire boundary map in Search and Maps with other critical information on mobile.   | Photo Credit: Google


The same information can be accessed in Maps as well, with location specific warnings if someone is approaching an ongoing wildfire.

The satellite data comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) GOES constellation of satellites. GOES 16 and 17 satellites, take images every 5 to 15 minutes, and are equipped with GOES ABI imager which provides the data for the FDC fire detection algorithm, Google said.

“NOAA’s satellites include infrared and optical sensors optimized for detecting “hot spots” or large wildfires on the Earth’s surface,” Matias said.

NOAA's GOES-17 satellite showing smoke.

NOAA's GOES-17 satellite showing smoke.   | Photo Credit: Google


This allows the satellites to identify smoke, burned areas, and active fires. And in combination with Google Earth’s data analysis and image data processing, the size of a wildfire is available in real time.

Google Earth Engine also provides tools to identify and mark the outline of a wildfire. The approximate area of a wildfire is demarcated using a digital polygon, which has a red boundary. This mapped area with a red outline or wildfire boundary map will be shown on the map in Search and Google Maps.

Last year Google piloted this feature in Search for major California wildfires in collaboration with organizations, like the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and Boulder’s Office of Emergency Management.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 10:55:05 PM |

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