The Colorado High Park Fire, which started on Saturday June 9, has burned over 56,000 acres so far, and continues to burn. On Sunday June 10, my husband, Kris, and I decided to get a map of the fire out to the public, since none existed at that time. Kris is the owner of Mapbiquity, which happens to be a service that is already built to allow rapid deployment of web maps, so it was natural that we should give it a spin with the fire data. Another reason we jumped on this was because the fire is very close to home. In fact, here’s a picture I took from our window on June 11, when the fire was 5.5 miles away as the crow flies:
You can see a couple of red spots–fire–on the foothills in the picture. Kris and I took Monday off work to continue to fine-tune the map, which was getting so many hits that it was running very slowly. I spent quite a lot of time interpreting Larimer County’s text on evacuation issues and lifts in order to digitize them.
To date, our map is the only one that has the evacuation areas digitized. I do have to caveat that there is at least one evacuation area that is not on our map. This is due to my inability to interpret the Larimer County text in sufficient detail to create even a semi-accurate boundary.
BIG THANKS to Nick Armstrong, a small business Colorado-based marketing expert, who read our tweets about the fire map and subsequently purchased a dedicated domain/host for us to put the map on: www.cohighparkfiremap.org. Prior to this we had been using a mapbiquity domain.
The map has had 50,000 hits. To deal with the traffic, we enacted the following measures:
1) Moved it to a larger server with more processing power
2) Disabled most of the log files
4) Began caching, though this means some users need to refresh and reload the page before they see the updates, unfortunately
The benefits / design considerations of the high park fire map that we put together are as follows:
1) It is interactive, people can zoom in to see where their home is or where their relative’s home is, while also viewing the latest fire perimeter, to determine how concerned they need to be.
2) You can measure distances on the map with an easy tool. People have been using this to tell their family and friends “the fire is 6.5 miles away” for example.
3) Each layer has an “i” button with more information on the layer. For the evacuation areas, clicking the “i” button displays the official evacuation wording (though we had to fix many typos in the official wording. For example, they did not spell Hewlett Gulch correctly in one instance.)
4) Having a disclaimer noting that the map is not “to the scale of individual houses” was the best way to inform the public that the evacuation areas are not very high-resolution. They have to visit the text or call an official number (provided) to make individual house determinations.
5) Twitter was used as the main form of communication to let people know when map updates were/are posted.
The map is featured in the Coloradoan. We thank them for making it known to a wider audience.