Forest fires are a necessary and natural part of a forest’s lifecycle, but recent years have seen a drastic increase in the number and severity of uncontrolled wildfires during the summer months—ask any Californian about that. Thankfully, new tools in Google Search and Google Maps can keep you up-to-date on the status of nearby fires and help you stay safe. Here’s a quick guide on how to use them.
Finding and tracking nearby fires in Google Search and Google Maps
You can now get up-to-the-hour information for any U.S. wildfire with Google Search or Google Maps on iOS, Android and the web. Just search for the wildfire by name or region to see Google SOS alerts that include emergency contact info, recent news stories, social media alerts and links to open the fire’s location in Google Maps.
The reddish areas shown on the map outline the fire’s approximate area, and are continually updated every hour based on satellite information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Google Maps will also help you navigate around road closures caused by nearby fires, which is important for anyone traveling through burn areas or—god forbid—planning a hasty evacuation.
Tracking US wildfires with Google’s Crisis Map
Aside from Google Maps and Google search, Google also has a dedicated crisis map website specifically for tracking wildfires. The map displays:
- Areas on “watch” (pink) or “warning” (red) for new wildfires.
- Ongoing national and local burn information based on InciWeb’s data (You can click/tap on a burn from the map to see the latest updates on containment level).
- Alerts for areas at risk of fire, unsafe air quality, and other hazards as per weather.gov and earthquakes.usgs.gov
- Traffic conditions via Google Maps.
All of this is essential data during wildfire season, but it’s mostly surface-level stuff. Google recommends using Google Search or Google Maps instead if you’re looking for detailed reports on the current California wildfire crisis (or other specific fires, for that matter).