An interactive map of B.C. wildfire conditions. (Neil Johnston)

Interactive map paints B.C. wildfire picture

Vancouver man combines wildfires, tweets and road closures

An enterprising B.C. man has created a one-stop shop for all wildfire information across the province.

Neil Johnston of Vancouver made the interactive map that shows fires, evacuation orders and alerts, highway closures and crowdsourced tweets all together.

RELATED: Wildfires burn 78,000 hectares across B.C.

Johnston, who works at tech company Echosec said that the idea was born out struggling to make sense of all the different information on fires and road closures.

“I grew up in Soda Creek, and had just checked the latest information on [the Emergency Management BC site] and saw that my folks were under an evacuation order,” he said.”My partner and I were trying to find routes that could potentially let us navigate my Mom and Dad to the coast [and] I pretty quickly discovered that it was really hard to correlate the different information sources; active wide fires on one map, road closures on another, and traffic incidents.”

RELATED: Wildfire evacuees frustrated with Red Cross waits

And so a first draft of the map was born. Johnston then got the idea to listen to the radio so he could get a sense of what kinds of questions listeners wanted answered.

“[My company] provided me with access to our ArcGIS Online account and I rebuild the map in that technology,” Johnston said. “One of the biggest requests was for wind direction, so I tried to add that. It’s not perfect, but hopefully it helps. I had the idea of adding drive BC highway cams at about 5:30 this morning, and had that working by about 9.”

VIDEO: Devastating footage from Boston Flats

Having family in rural communities makes Johnston cognizant of the challenges with disseminating information

I think the biggest problem we’ll be running into is that while more and more of this information is being pushed online, a lot of rural BC residents don’t have that access still,” he said. “Which means the onus is on those of us who do, to keep them in the know, by cell and landline, as the situation develops.”


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