Note: See GitHub for live demo


Every year, more than 100,000 wildfires, clearing 5 million acres of land, are reported in the U.S. Despite these statistics, there is a significant lack of wildfire relief systems which has led to extremely detrimental effects on both the health of people in the area and the societal infrastructure.

Wildfires are becoming an increasingly potent threat. They're fast, they're dangerous, and they're everywhere. What can we do to take the 'heat' off of those in need?

Our Solution

Inform, Alert, Relieve - Introducing: FireWatch, our tool to turn the tides in the fight against fire through 3-tiers:

(1) Inform

Real time display of wildfires and their locations.

(2) Alert

Notification of concerning fires based on proximity to the user.

(3) Relieve

Detailed and accurate routes to evacuation centers.

How It Works

FireWatch is a website that leverages the Maps API to assist local victims of wildfires. By constantly gathering information from MODIS, NASA’S Terra satellite, we create real-time location markers based on current forest fires and add them to the map using the Maps API clustering algorithm. When the satellite information is updated every hour, FireWatch’s location markers are also updated.

To prevent the loss of life and property, FireWatch also has a notification system that sends out an email to a user if a forest fire is approaching their location using EmailJS. Using the Routing API from and evacuation center data from Red Cross, FireWatch is able to help users find the fastest routes to the closest evacuation shelters so that they can ensure their safety.

When the user opens FireWatch, their location is gathered using the Maps API. The map then automatically zooms in on their location and provides the user with relevant news articles about forest fires in their area by utilizing the News API. The user may also search for forest fire information from any other location on the globe through our combination of Google Place Autocomplete search bar and the map interface.

Why FireWatch?

Features Competitors FireWatch
Displays real-time data No Yes
Covers broad range No Yes
Provides evacuation routes No Yes

What's Next?

While currently functional, many additional features could enhance FireWatch’s effectiveness. Connection with local authorities would provide news directly on scene, and integration with pre-existing evacuation systems would help streamline the distribution of information.

Another important step would be expansion towards mobile, increasing portability of FireWatch and leading to more accurate location-based notifications.

Challenges We Faced

The major challenge that we faced was gathering location markers for wildfires in real-time, as this meant that the data would have to be parsed every hour. Also, since the data file for global wildfires contains 40,000+ data points, we had to ensure that the parsing algorithm was efficient.

Another challenge that we faced was writing the algorithm that constantly calculates the distance from the user’s location to the closest forest fire to determine whether the user needs to be notified. Once we were able to geocode the user’s selected location, we were able to take those coordinates and apply our distance algorithm every hour to see if wildfires were in close proximity.

Accomplishments That We’re Proud Of

As a team, we were able to code a fully functioning website that is actually ready to be used to help people living in areas prone to forest fires! Not only were we able to implement the API seamlessly, but by pairing it with tools like real-time satellite data from NASA and the Google & News APIs, we were able to expand the functionality of FireWatch. Overall, we’re proud of the fact that FireWatch encompasses every resource an individual would need when dealing with forest fires while providing a user-friendly interface.

What We Learned

Our biggest take-away from FireWatch is learning how to take advantage of multiple platforms/tools to provide the best user functionality for a singular purpose. Put simply, we realized that by combining relevant APIs, data, and algorithms under a common UI, it is possible to provide almost any functionality.

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