Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Palette Choice in Inciweb Rim Fire mapping

The mapping addicts at Wired have been doing some great work with the Rim Fire mapping data from Inciweb, trying to understand how to make it most understandable.

  • Last week, in Yosemite Fire’s Destruction Mapped in Beautiful, Frightening Color, the team highlighted one of the Inciweb-provided maps and how it used color to help explain the movement of the fire from day to day:
    The progression of the Rim fire into Yosemite National Park has been strong, steady, and scary, fueled by extra-arid conditions after an exceptionally dry winter in California. This map shows the growth particularly well, with each color representing the area burned each day.
  • This week, the team returns to the analysis, studying how the choice of color palette affects the experience of the map: The Color of Fire: How Palette Choice Impacts Maps of Yosemite’s Rim Fire
    The Inciweb map grew incrementally and is being used to follow the fire on specific days, so using vastly different bright colors that easily stand out from each other was probably a conscious decision. But Simmon’s map gives people like us who are not on the front lines a much better grasp of the life of this fire.
  • Meanwhile, "since I've got you on the phone," don't miss this superb reporting over at the Santa Barbara Independent: On the Safety of Firefighters: Real Time Danger During the Jesusita Blaze and Human Lives vs. Expensive Homes.
    Over the past several years, there has been a noticeable shift in attitude regarding the dangers in which we place wildland firefighters. In 2008, the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics ( initiated a lawsuit designed to push for wildland firefighting reform. “Firefighters should not be asked to defend a home that is indefensible,” said former FSEEE field director Bob Dale. “No home is worth a firefighter’s life.”

    As is the case in Santa Barbara, the primary concern is not the backcountry wildland fires like the 240,000-acre Zaca Fire in 2007 that burns for two months but consumes no houses. It is the homes that have been built in the past 20-30 years along the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains that worry firefighters. This is the point at which the wildland meets an encroaching urban community. What is different here is that you are asking Forest Service employees trained to fight wildland fires to respond to the urban interface and you are asking city firefighters trained in defending structures to do so in a wildland environment.

The Rim Fire effort appears to have gone quite well over the last week. Once the controversial decision to conduct "burnout operations" in America's premier National Park was approved and acted upon, the last week has gone mostly as the incident team predicted it would, and so far as I know has been essentially casualty free, so kudos to the team for that great result.

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