BONNEY LAKE, Wash. — Terry Parker has lived in his Bonney Lake home for 11 years, and in 2020 was one of hundreds who had to evacuate during the Sumner Grade fire.
“It was kind of scary because we were hoping it wouldn’t jump the road because it could’ve wiped out our neighborhood. It was only half a block away,” said Parker.
The fire burned 800 acres and destroyed four homes. Parker said wildfires aren’t typical in that area.
“I’ve been coming here since 1964 and there’s never been a fire like that in this area or that close,” said Parker.
Now, the Western Fire Chiefs Association developed a first of its kind map that shows up to date information on wildfires happening so people can quickly take action.
“It can make a big difference for people that are in rural areas where they may not have really good exit areas,” said Leonard Johnson, McLane Blake Lake fire chief and chair of the Washington State Fire Defense Committee.
The fire map pulls data from the US Forest Service using the National Interagency Fire Center feed and 911 dispatch data via PulsePoint to track wildfires burning in real time.
“The map populates current fire information that is occurring today, has updated information from fires that occurred yesterday, and then it has another layer in there that provides fire information for ongoing fires,” said Johnson.
It gives the public up-to-date information on how big a fire is and how much is contained. Something Parker thinks could’ve made a huge different two years ago.
“You’ll get the information quicker than waiting to see it on the news. You can go on your phone and look at the map and see where it’s at,” said Parker.
By next year, the association hopes the map moves into phase two, which will include location based notifications.
“People can go to the map and say, hey, this is where I'm at what's around me. If they get earlier notification that a fire is approaching either a residence or a place that they're vacationing, it gives them a better opportunity to get out,” said Johnson.
The new tool is being released as wildfire season is expected to pick up.
“The Stayman fire is an early indicator that things are getting ready to burn. Just because it rained a lot this spring doesn't mean that we're still not going to have a pretty active fire season coming into the fall here,” said Johnson.