GIS Skills at Forefront of Wildfire Fight

Susan Hall

Our relatives in Sierra Vista, Ariz., evacuated their homes last weekend due to the threat from the Monument fire, which had come breathtakingly close. They have returned, but remain ready to go again should the need arise.


So I found this story about the technology used to fight wildfires especially interesting. It says of the trailer used as a tech hub in fighting the Track Fire straddling the New Mexico-Colorado border:

J.J. Miller, a Forest Service geographical information system specialist from the Carson National Forest, N.M., said the information developed by [Galen Roesler, a Forest Service fire behavioral analyst], along with data from infrared imagery and collected by firefighters, is used to update digital and paper maps on a daily basis. Miller said he could not overemphasize the importance of the GPS data - "walking the fire line" provides the most precise information, he said.
Miller said the daily GIS plot is then fed to three massive plotter printers, which produce paper maps for managers and individual firefighters.

The Trinidad (Colo.) Times has another really interesting look at the GIS specialists at work.


In an interview with American Sentinel University, Michael Gould, director of education for international GIS technology firm ESRI, paints the job outlook in that area as bright. He says in the future, mapping tools will be everywhere - on laptops, cars and phones. They will be behind apps that help you find the next bus and will be used extensively in all types of environmental concerns. In fact, he says, people involved in GIS tend to be drawn by the desire to create a better world.


He's advocating for graduate education in this area, but notes that depending on the position, various software skills are required, such as database management system experience, Java, Python or C# programming or programming techniques such as agile or scrum. And demand is heating up in Web and mobile application development.


A separate post looks at some of the GIS job sites. Perusing those would be a great way to find out more about the jobs out there.


Says Gould:

Society is affected by a whole host of negative factors, from climate change to political instability to lack of access to water and education. How can the average person fight back? One way is by accessing information describing the Earth and its multiple relationships, changes and their consequences, and getting better informed. ... This knowledge allows these people to be better prepared to effect change, rather than merely be affected by change, in the world. This is part of the vision of geodesign: collaborating online to produce a better world.

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