Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Amazing Web and thank God for Firefighters

During the recent fire scare we of course turned on the TV and found it useless for information. When the news finally came on they would show a weather map and a bunch of arrows showing wind direction and the smoke plume which of course covered about 4 counties and was NO indication of where the hell the fire was so whats a mother to do? is a websitre local radio feeds across the country. The feeds are not always active but in my case the feed was active and I was able to listen to the fire and rescue traffic in real time, not through some blow dryed dork on TV waving his arms and saying words with no content

I live about half a mile from I-95 out in the forest. I live on the East side of 95. On the east side its fairly well populated with farms and orange groves and in a couple of miles you run into the intra coastal water way. Beyond that is the blue Atlantic and nothing till the coast of Africa. To the west its soon becomes just acres and acres of uninhabited forest to the St Johns River.

As you can see I live just east of the start of a double bend in I-95 so if I can find I-95 on a map I can find my house.

The biggest problem I had was trying to figure out where the fire was. I live in north Brevard county and just north is Volusia county The counties share a boarder all the way to the St Johns River It turns out the fire was as much west of me as north so it was converging from 2 directions

The green dot at the bottom is my place. This map was not available till today so to try and figure out where the fire was I found this resource

Noaa firedetect

This satellite measures smoke plumes updated every 3 hours and it allows you to see where the fire is. I was able to drill down to a 10 sq mile area. I didn't save a screen shot of the fire but basically I could see every source within the map above. There were about 25 individual sources in the fire zone. This Map was invaluable to me, as there are really only 2 roads out of my QTH and with this data I was able to make a plan and a back up plan about which way to go if the need arose.

Another invaluable resource was the traffic cam network on trafficland There are a number of web cam networks, another is 511 but with this I was able to monitor the fire visually. There are cameras every mile and I could see if fire was on both sides of the interstate of on just one and how far north and south was the fire

By knowing where my little jog in the road was I could call up cams up and down the road and see what was happening

I could also monitor US 1 SR46 intersection and see if traffic was being diverted, a sure sign things were getting worse

In 1998 there was much worse wild fire than this. In that year there was close to a million acres of FL that was on fire. In that fire I had burned spots in my yard and a pumper truck next to my house protecting me., We had a local radio station a 5kw daytimer that stayed on throughout the fire and people called in and gave reports so we knew what was happening. This year the station was off the air and all I got on AM radio was reruns of Michael Savage BLEH!!! BUT with the advent of all this information I was able to a very large extent to be apprised of what was going on around me all the time. I was able to call up my neighbors and discuss evac contingencies etc and have some idea of how bad things really were. If all I had was the blow dryed dork on channel 35 to rely on I would have been sunk