Map making a critical part of keeping firefighters, homeowners safe

Credit: Troy Colson/KTVB

Map making a critical part of keeping firefighters, homeowners safe

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by Natalie Podgorski

KTVB.COM

Posted on August 22, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 26 at 4:04 AM

PINE, Idaho -- The Trinity Ridge Fire is now more than 97,000 acres. Every day it grows a new map is made to show the areas that have burned. These maps have been critical to firefighters and homeowners. We learned more today about how the maps are made.

If you are anywhere near Pine or Featherville chances are you've seen a fire map. They are posted in town, handed out at community meetings and carried around by firefighters.

It may look like just any another map, but it plays a big role in the decision making.

Hundreds and hundreds of different maps are printed at the Trinity Ridge Fire camp each day.

A team of geographical specialists comes in early to build all the maps, around 4 o'clock each morning.

An infrared plane flies over the Trinity Ridge Fire each night, and this team takes that information and translates it into a map.

The maps are handed out to firefighters before they head out on their daily assignments so crews know what they are dealing with.

“They need to see this in a high-quality map so they can assemble all this information together before they make their decisions. It is very important from the perspective of firefighter safety that they all have current updated maps every morning,” said Jeff Sheffey, geographical specialist.

The maps help firefighters plan, but they also help homeowners. Each day homeowners are given maps and this allows them to see exactly how far the fire is away from their house.

Firefighters are expecting the map will look very different tomorrow.

Crews plan to start some small fires on ridges outside of Featherville to create a half-mile buffer. If crews can burn some of the vegetation the fire won't have any fuel around town, giving firefighters a much better chance fighting it.

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