September 8, 2020, saw the devastating Almeda Fire rip through southern Oregon, destroying nearly 3,000 structures and killing 3 residents
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are 46 million residences in 70,000 communities across the United States at risk for wildland urban interface (WUI) fires. https://www.usfa.fema.gov/wui/ This StoryMap uses the city of Talent, Oregon and the devastating Almeda Drive Fire of 2020 as an example of how aerial imagery and derived products used in ArcGIS can assist in recovery efforts.
Recently, I visited the Talent, Oregon to see how high-resolution aerial imagery and derived products were being used by the city for recovery efforts, and if through collaboration, more could be done.
The Almeda Fire started on September 8, 2020, and quickly spread to engulf about 3,200 acres. There was an abundance of dry fuel within and adjacent to the city, strong winds, and hot temperatures, plus multiple other wildland fires already burning in Oregon. Conditions were ripe for the perfect storm. Limited resources were overwhelmed and the fire moved rapidly in a northwest direction following interstate 5 between Ashland and Medford. Talent fire crews managed to hold a line along Talent Avenue to save the western side of the city, but to the east, much was destroyed.
Nearmap captured aerial imagery two weeks before the fire and again immediately after, as seen in these images.
Talent is located in Oregon's picturesque Rogue Valley, seven miles south of Medford. Located in the wildland urban fringe, Talent, like many other U.S. communities, is vulnerable to WUI fires.
Talent had a population of approximately 6,530 before the fire, and has a city area of 1.32 sq miles. Almost the entire city evacuated for the fire and 2,000 were left homeless. Currently, some 400 residents are still living in hotel accommodation while waiting for FEMA trailers to arrive at the new Gateway Transitional Housing Project.
After a disaster's response phase comes recovery. This phase is now into its second year for Talent and is likely to take several more. This is a period of debris removal, creating a safe environment, planning, applying for grants and funding, community planning for resiliency, allocating and maximizing resources, rebuilding, analysis of what happened, and a lot of hard work, to name just a few. This requires significant coordination, relevant GIS applications, and appropriate data. The use of GIS without current, accurate, and high-resolution data is suboptimal, as is the use of current, accurate, and high-resolution data without the analytical and powerful capabilities of a GIS. It's the combination of GIS and accurate data that brings more meaningful analysis and facilitates insightful decision making during the response and recovery phases.
The apps and imagery below are just a few samples of what can be created using Nearmap and ArcGIS for disaster response. During the response phase, immediate access and dissemination of accurate information is critical. Aerial imagery plays a vital role here, especially when combined with apps built on ArcGIS. Coordination of GIS resources is crucial in the response phase to maximize effectiveness and ArcGIS apps and dashboards are a well suited to the task. This StoryMap is focused on recovery, but I also want to touch on response with two use cases.
The series of apps and imagery below are just a few samples of use cases and scenarios used by Talent for the long recovery process. This is not a comprehensive list so I encourage you to reach out to us. These are real use cases from Talent who are in the recovery phase and have much work still to do.
"With Esri products, Nearmap content, and Nikki’s expertise, this took about 20 minutes, rather than the several week process it would have taken us to review the properties in person" - Jordan Rooklyn, City Manager, City of Talent. Discussing the use of AI for a hazardous fuels reduction project.
This ArcGIS Webmap uses Nearmap AI for medium to high vegetation from before and after the fire, making it simple to calculate the acreage of vegetation loss.
Recovery after a natural disaster is a lengthy and all-consuming process. Efforts are split between maintaining normal city functions and repairing the affected areas. Optimal use of available resources is critical to successful recovery, and recovery operations need the most current, accurate, and accessible analytical tools and data. Talent, Oregon is a small community, and is now in year two of recovery from the Almeda fire that left over 2,000 residents homeless and destroyed vast swaths of vegetation and structures. The initial response to the fire was all-hands-on-deck. This quickly moved into planning for recovery and almost simultaneously initial recovery operations commenced. Using Esri’s ArcGIS with Nearmap high-resolution imagery, AI, and 3D, Talent is recovering and planning for the future with fire resiliency in mind. The apps, images, and videos above illustrate just some of the ways ArcGIS combined with Nearmap content are assisting Talent in recovery.
Founded in 2007, Nearmap is a leading aerial imagery and geospatial technology provider, delivering content at scale and covering large urban areas throughout Australia, the United States, New Zealand, and Canada.
Nearmap is one of Fast Company’s 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2020 and is a Sydney-headquartered technology pioneer listed on the ASX 300. Combining patented plane-mounted camera systems, a world-class survey operations capability, and an automated photogrammetry pipeline to provide imagery within days of capture, Nearmap provides quality at scale — covering large urban areas to empower businesses to perform virtual site visits and make critical business decisions without leaving the office.
Learn more about how Nearmap accelerates your understanding of catastrophic damage with rapid collection of high-resolution aerial images following natural disasters, so you can be there for your customers and communities — even when ground access and inspection resources are limited.
Thank you to Nikki Hart-Brinkley, Technology Services Coordinator, Rogue Valley Council of Governments for hosting my visit, insights, use cases, enthusiasm, and webmap access for many of the application images.
Credit and acknowledgement for their hard work and insights is also given to Jackson County, Oregon.