Home Natural Hazard Management GPS systems exactly locate burnt houses

GPS systems exactly locate burnt houses

Navajo County workers are using everything from Space Age satellites to rural address maps to help evacuees from the “Rodeo-Chediski” wildfire find out if their homes are still standing.

County Manager Eddie Koury said workers are using global-positioning system locators, plat mats and rural address maps to come up with answers about whose residences survived the inferno.

The process has been slow, Koury said, because the Forest Service has denied access to his employees to all but the Pinedale and Timberland areas, west of Show Low. Koury said that 17 homes were confirmed destroyed in Pinedale and an estimated 100 were burned to the ground in Timberland.

Koury said the process begins with a flyover of the burned area to check the coordinates on the hand-held global-positioning system. The locators use four satellite signals to compute position, velocity and time. The system was designed for the U.S. military and is controlled by the Department of Defense. Koury said their accuracy has been within three yards.

The global-positioning systems also have been used effectively in positioning emergency personnel and answering calls in addition to tracking fire movement, said Paul Jaster, emergency services director for Navajo County.