Wildfire maps: Here are 6 online fire maps Californians can use to stay in-the-know

Matt Brannon
Mount Shasta Herald

As California faces the 2020 wildfire season, the need for up-to-date information is paramount. Fortunately, several groups have made fire maps available online that can help the public figure out how far they are from the nearest fires and other relevant details.

When using these sites, readers should be careful about making interpretations and note that geographical data is often delayed, so the maps may not represent a real-time look at what's burning that second. 

Keeping that in mind, here are six maps we've found helpful for visualizing what areas are burning.

1. Current Cal Fire incident map


This is the official incident map for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The map currently provides details about all major fire incidents in the state, like the fire's location, size, containment, and which agency is managing the response. 

On the left side of the map, you can adjust layers so that the map will show active fire perimeters, county lines and locations under a red flag warning.

A screenshot of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection current incident map is shown from Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

2. NASA Firms map


NASA's Fire Information Resource Management System map provides fire data within three to five hours thanks to satellite detection. For those who want to spend time exploring the page's features, the map also comes with tutorials and a page dedicated to frequently asked questions. 

A screenshot of NASA's Fire Information Resource Management System map is shown from Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

3. InciWeb map


InciWeb is an interagency website led by the U.S. Forest Service. Readers might notice some Cal Fire-managed incidents don't appear on the map, and that's because InciWeb is primarily used by federal wildland fire agencies, like the USDA Forest Service and Department of Interior agencies such as the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

This FAQ provides more information. It is hosted on the site for the National Wildlife Coordinating Group. The map distinguishes between wildfires and prescribed fires. The layers of the map can also be adjusted to show red flag areas. 

InciWeb can be used for floods and mudslides, according to a U.S. Forest Service spokesperson. 

A screenshot of the InciWeb map is shown from Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

4. National Interagency Fire Center map


This map, the Enterprise Geospatial Portal, is provided by the Boise-based National Interagency Fire Center. The map shows fire perimeters and satellite-identified hotspots.

The page also has a helpful "briefing mode" that allows readers to see a major fire's containment, estimated cost and number of personnel assigned to it. 

A screenshot of the National Interagency Fire Center's Enterprise Geospatial Portal map is shown from Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

5. Google crisis map


For those used to using Google web tools, the company has a U.S. Wildfire Crisis map that shows areas under public safety watches or warnings, as well as traffic conditions. 

A screenshot of Google's U.S. Wildfire Crisis map is shown from Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

6. #FireMappers early notification map


The Wildfire Early Notification Map is another map tool worth exploring. It was made and is updated with public information from government data sources. The map has multiple sources, including crowdsourced locations from #FireMappers, satellite detection and others.

"This map is powered by NAPSG, GISCorps, and CEDR Digital volunteers to increase situational awareness for the public, first responders, and emergency management agencies. It DOES NOT replace authoritative information, but may help fill a critical gap early on in a fire incident," a note on the map reads. 

A screenshot of the Wildfire Early Notification Map by #FireMappers is shown from Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

Did we miss any maps that you've found helpful? Let us know by emailing matthew.brannon@redding.com. 

Matt Brannon covers politics, the criminal justice system and breaking news for the Record Searchlight. Follow him on Twitter @MattBrannon_RS. Support local coverage and keep up with the North State for as little as $1 a month. Subscribe today