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Idaho State University

ASA/ISU RECOVER Tool Used by Wildfire Managers to Help Plan Recovery of Idaho's Soda Fire

By Andy Taylor |

POCATELLO - Wildfire managers are using a Geographic Information System (GIS) satellite imagery decision support system designed by Idaho State University and NASA ¬to help plan for the recovery of Idaho's nearly-280,000 acre Soda Fire.

ASA/ISU RECOVER Tool Used by Wildfire Managers to Help Plan Recovery of Idaho's Soda Fire

The Soda Fire, which started Aug. 10 about 40 miles northwest of Boise, burned 279,144 acres, including rangeland, recreational sites, and 592 miles of fence.

The system, officially known as the Rehabilitation Capability Convergence for Ecosystem Recovery (RECOVER), is still just in the first year of its second phase of development. It is a computerized decision support system in the form of multi-layered GIS maps that is automatically deployable and site-specific. ISU and NASA have worked with the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies to develop it.

"The land management agencies do all the work to fight the fire," said Keith Weber, principal investigator on the project and director of the ISU GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Training and Research Center, which is working with NASA on the RECOVER Project. "What we are doing is supporting them so they can make good decisions quickly about how to fight the fire and later, how to manage the land after the fire is out. RECOVER gives them all pertinent information in one web-based application."

The BLM requested a RECOVER webmap from the ISU GIS Center for the Soda Fire when it was 78,000 acres in size and the Center refreshed that webmap for them several times as the fire progressed.

"RECOVER supported our early rapid assessment for rehabbing after the fire even while firefighters were still on the ground," said Karen Miranda, public information officer for the Soda Fire Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation team. "Pre-planning before the fire is fully contained helps our work move forward as quickly as possible."

End users don't need to have GIS software to use RECOVER and the system can be used both in the field and out, simultaneously. Managers analyzing the data in an office headquarters can receive information from firefighters in the field using the mobile RECOVER app to collect data in the field and update the system with new information in real time.

"The whole RECOVER project is working at least as well as expected, maybe better than expected, and we are starting to see good acceptance of it," Weber said. "But there are additional things we want to accomplish over the next two years to make it a faster, better and even more powerful product."

This system uses state-of-the-art cloud-based data management technologies developed by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to improve performance, reduce cost and provide site-specific flexibility for each fire.

RECOVER was initially tested in Idaho during the 2013 fire season with funding from NASA's Applied Sciences Program and then expanded for three more years with additional funding. This innovative program and firefighting tool will be expanded for use across the Western United States.

Its creators and emergency managers are only now beginning to understand the many uses for RECOVER, which could have uses to help manage the recovery from other natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters of similar magnitude.

NASA and ISU initially partnered with the BLM and the Idaho Department of Lands, but will extend their partnerships to the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, Idaho Transportation Department and other agencies.

More information on the RECOVER project

More information on the NASA Applied Sciences Program