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GIS for fire control

Virginia Department of Forestry Resource Protection has put together a GIS computer model to help determine wildfire risk across Virginia. This was stated by John Miller, Chief of the Department at the recently held 6th annual Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN) Conference at Washington, D.C. The conference was attended by relief workers and mitigation experts from 57 countries, besides discussions on other issues.
While talking over what worked for U.S. in this regard, Miller said that the GIS allows for mapping of the state using different layers of information, including topography, population and hydrant locations. The department renamed the GIS as “ForestRIM” and made it accessible to the public on the Internet. Among other things, ForestRIM helped them determine where to place more fire hydrants around the state.

From one Web-based mapping system to another, Elizabeth Lile of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) spoke next on her own department’s system called GeoMAC. Sponsored by the National Interagency Fire Center, the tool meets both firefighters’ and the public’s need for status, location and proximity of wildfires. “We started the Web site in 2000, and since then the number of hits has skyrocketed,” said Lile.

The presenters at the conference expressed their unanimity over the importance of well-organized fire management programs that help both government and the public before, during and after wildfires.

Dr. Johann Goldammer, head of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), spoke on his agency’s current priority issues. He said the GFMC created a network to help with information on early warning systems, give situation updates to fire responders, help developing countries create a fire-fighting infrastructure, and provide support for policy-making institutions on international levels. Goldammer said that the GFMC sees the need for cooperation among fire management organizations around the world.
Dr. Albert Simard, director of Knowledge Management for Canada’s Natural Resources Department stated the fires cause $6.9 million in property loss annually.