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7.5 Google Earth Fire Application

7.5.1 National Weather Service Data

The National Weather Service produces several data sets that are available in formats available to import into Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS is a collection of computer hardware, software, and geographic data for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. It takes the numbers and words from the rows and columns in databases and spreadsheets and puts them on a map

7.5.2 Geospatial Equipment and Technology Application (GETA) Group Common Operating Picture (COP)

The (GETA) Group is a growing circle of people who are interested in experiential training, incident management, and geospatial technology in general. Their website ( ) provides the user links within the Navigation Tabs to the left will navigate to sub-pages that go into further detail about the training and incident management applications provided.

        A Common Operating Picture is a single identical display of relevant operational information shared by more than one command. A COP facilitates                    collaborative planning and assists all incident responders to achieve situational awareness.

        Incident responders have the ability with networked mobile devices to show what they are seeing from an incident anywhere; terrain matched photos, video         clips, incident specific locations (helispots, water sources, spot fires, dozer line, fire perimeter, etc.) and text messages all on a geospatial platform.

        Meanwhile all incident information is simultaneously viewed and updated at the Incident Command Post, helibase, and local unit offices or being able to            brief the public using near real-time information.

        This page will outline ideas and working examples of how to use a Geospatial viewing platform as an incident management planning and operational tool.

        GETA Group focuses on a ground-up approach to developing a Common Operating Picture. In other words, we want incident responders to decide how the         tool works best for them.

        For the last year GETA Group has worked with partners in the Northern Rockies, Pacific North-West, South-West, Southern Areas and the National                Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) to develop the infrastructure for a Google Earth based National Fire COP.

        Included in the National Fire COP is the ability for Geographic Areas down to an individual unit to build or incorporate data that specifically pertains to the         individual situation for those areas.

        In the National Fire COP users will find the:
  • Northern Rockies COP
  • Pacific Northwest COP
  • Southwest COP
  • Southern COP
  • Texas Forest Service COP

     The National Fire COP can be downloaded by clicking HERE (

7.5.3 Finding a section, township, and range in Google Earth:

  • Navigate to the Earth Point website ( ).
  • Then scroll down to the middle of the page to the section called Convert Township, Range, and Section to Latitude and Longitude
  • Select the appropriate state, meridian, township range and section from the drop-down menus.
  • Click Fly to on Google Earth
  • You can now view the terrain in the section of interest to gather information.

7.5.4 Overlay a GeoTIFF image

This handy trick allows the user to drape a georeferenced TIFF file over the 3D landscape displayed in Google Earth. The example here utilizes WFDSS to obtain the landscape file and its georeferencing coordinates and FLAMMAP to produce the TIFF image. A third tool, an image editor, is required to crop the image.
A Wildland Fire Descision Support System (WFDSS) screenshot of an example Landscape File, and its FLAMMAP model geo-referenced  coordinates, and steps to produce a Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) Landscape File, as described in the text adjacent to this image.

1. Obtain georeferenced landscape (lcp) file. Login to WFDSS and navigate to an analysis that includes the landscape edits and analysis area of interest.
  • In the selected analysis, select “Landscape” on the left side menu.
  • Once the heading says “(The LCP file exists), click the Download LCP File button on the bottom row.
  • Note the top and bottom latitudes and the left and right longitudes from the Landscape File screen.
  • Also, note the resolution (30 m). If a larger area is needed, increase the resolution to 60 or 90 m. The larger the file, the more difficult it is for Google Earth and your computer to display the image.
2. Display the Landscape. This example will use the fuel layer, but the process could be used to overlay any of the landscape themes. Simply choose to display the desired lcp them in the FLAMMAP window before continuing the process.
  • Open FLAMMAP and open the landscape just downloaded for display
  • Right-click on the displayed theme and select “full screen” from the menu that appears. It is important that the full extent is displayed to match the coordinates captured from WFDSS in step 1.
3. Save Display as a TIFF file. Right-click on the displayed theme again, this time choosing “Save as” and saving the file after selecting TIFF (*.TIF, *.TIFF) as the “Save as type”.

4. Crop image to exclude white space on right side of image.
  • Open the TIFF in an image editor, such as Microsoft Office Picture Manager.
  • Clip out the white area to the right. Crop it as close as you can without clipping any of the fuel model image. You may have to zoom in or crop it twice to be precise.
5. Add TIFF to Google Earth as an Image Overlay.
A screenshot of a Google Earth, New Image Overlay input table that is used for adding a Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) file to a Google Earth fire projection, as described in the text adjacent to this image

  • Open Google Earth.
  • From the top line menu, select “Add” and choose “image overlay”.
  • The dialog box to the right provides the opportunity to name the overlay
  • Click on the “Browse…” button and Navigate to the saved TIFF file and open it.
  • Slide the transparency slider bar to the middle of the range to allow the base Google Earth imagery to show through the overlay TIFF image.
  • Click on the “Location” tab and enter the WFDSS coordinates captured earlier (North is “Top Latitude” | West is “Left Longitude” | etc.). Click “OK” when completed.
The image should now be displayed correctly. If you want to readjust the transparency, click on the image beneath “Places” (on the left), right-click, and select “Properties.”

A screenshot of a Google Earth, New Image Overlay input table that is used for adding a Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) file to a Google Earth fire projection, as described in the text adjacent to this image

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