As wildfires rage through-out the western United States, many people are wondering whether or not their real estate has been affected. Get clear answers with GeoMAC.
What is GeoMAC?
The Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination or GeoMAC, is an internet-based mapping application originally designed for fire managers to access online maps of current fire locations and perimeters in the United States. Now it is available to the public.
How Accurate is GeoMAC?
Fire perimeter data is updated daily based on input from incident intelligence sources, GPS data, and satellite infrared imagery.
How to Use GeoMAC to Research Active Fires
Launch the viewer. Active fires are marked with green triangles. Zoom in to see the yellow perimeter of current fires.
On the left, on the Data Layer tab, under Active Fires, check all five options including MODIS Fire Detection, VIIRS IBAND Fire Detection and HMS Fire Detection to get more complete information on fire location from additional information sources.
You may find it difficult to see the bright yellow perimeter of the fire against the light-yellow background of the street map. Under Base Map change the Base Data to Imagery so that the yellow perimeter will appear in high contrast against a dark satellite map.
On the Legend tab, under Current Fire Perimeters, one thing that initially confused me was the “Not Part of Complex” vs. “Part of Complex”. I found myself hoping against hope that somehow “Not Part” was some kind of good news that an area was not affected by wildfire. No such luck. It turns out that a “complex fire” occurs when separate fires link up together. So, the yellow boundaries that you see show active complex fires while the green boundaries show active single fires. What matters though is the boundary itself as it does show an active fire area.
Fires are given names based on where they started. If you know the name of the fire you want to investigate, you can choose it from the menu in the upper right corner. Some fires are referred to by the name of street where they began, e.g., the Tubbs fire currently burning in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties in Northern California. Other fires are referred to by prominent places, e.g. the Chetco Bar fire in Brookings Oregon.
One of the best features of this map is the Go To menu in the upper right corner. Here you can type in the address or latitude/longitude of any property that you might be worried about. The map will center there and you can see whether or not it’s inside the fire perimeter. Or you can check how far away the fire is today and then check again tomorrow to see if the fire has moved closer. It is common for vacant land to not have an address. In that case, you can get the latitude/longitude of your land here first and then enter it into GeoMAC.
Using GeoMAC to Research Historic Fires
A couple of decades ago I was working at a consulting firm in Denver. I lived in Pine Colorado in a new log house that had been built after a fire had torched the previous home and the surrounding forest. The landscape had an eerie beauty to it as I recall. Even though there is no active fire there in 2017, I was able to research the boundaries of this historic fire in GeoMAC. On the Data Layers Tab under Map Layers, choose Past Fires, Historic Fire Perimeters.
The ability to research past fires may be especially helpful to real estate buyers who want to stay away from locations that seem prone to fire. Or, at least you’ll know what you’re getting into.
Also, when buying land that is landlocked, the seller and listing agent will probably not know whether or not the land has ever been affected by fire. This is because they can’t get to the land to check it out and neither can you. But you can research past fires in GeoMAC to assess whether all the timber and vegetation might actually be gone or how many years of new growth there might be by now.
Using GeoMAC, I was able to determine that none of Land22’s current land listings in California and Oregon have been affected by wildfires. Yeah! However, a couple of my listings are two miles from the edge of an active wildfire. Yikes.
Consider forwarding this blog post to anyone you know who is worried about recent wildfires. Knowledge is power. Once you have the facts, you can deal with it, good news or bad. Stay safe.