Last Friday, there were few people in Washoe County who weren’t trying to find out where the Caughlin Fire (a.k.a. Pine Have Fire) was burning, where the evacuation area was, where to go for help. One of the main sources of news was a Google Map created by someone named Bryce (http://tinyurl.com/Caughlin), to which all the local news media referred. Turns out, that map was groundbreaking in many ways. After all the fires are out, the Reno City Council ought to recognize this guy’s achievement when they’re passing out medals.
What inspired you to make that map?
I graduate in December with a degree in general studies at UNR, with an emphasis on criminal justice. My mom was saying there was a major fire in south Reno, so I decided to start looking at it. I was listening to scanner traffic online, and you could hear where all the fire units were being dispatched, and what the fire was doing, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe I’ll make this Google Map and post it online where people can have data, and people can kind of see what is going on with where the fire is burning, and if they haven’t evacuated, maybe this visible representation will help them get the heck out of Dodge.”
So I went ahead and created it and posted it. I noticed that a lot of people were asking on KOLO exactly where these streets were, so I thought I could map it really quick, and put a pin up to show where certain streets are, and it became, “Well heck, I might as well establish where the points are, and this is where the fire is going, so people can see what’s going on out there.” So it just kind of snowballed from there. Originally, I was the only person who updated it; however, I realized later on, I couldn’t keep up with some of the scanner traffic. … Some people noticed I missed certain things, so I finally just opened it up so that anyone could edit it if they heard something.
Do you have any way of knowing how many people accessed that map?
When I [first] looked, I thought it was closer to a million, but when I looked last night, it was around 450,000.
For my part, I just wanted to thank you for having it up because I was desperate for information, and that was the best stuff that was coming out.
Like I said, it was based on the scanner traffic. I went online and pulled up RadioReference.com, which is an online resource that has all of the emergency scanners listed for a given area, and there’s one called “Reno Carson Fire,” and that’s where I was pulling my updates from, and I was also triangulating it with what I would see on Facebook. For example, if someone would say, “SaveMart is open doughnuts and coffee,” I’d say, “Here’s where you go,” or “the evacuation centers are here and here.” I think in the early part of the fire that was the best way to get information out, through Facebook, because it was so early in the morning. They were trying to get to terrestrial media, and we actually saw the news stations fail for awhile. … KOLO went down, KTVN went down for a short time, KOH went down as well. I think that social media was the only way to follow the fire for a while.
That’s got to be unprecedented in this area.
This was my first experiment for something like this. I would have to say that other than a few minor glitches—erroneous posts or people putting crap on there that shouldn’t be on there. … I’m actually going to use this for a paper for grad school. From what I heard, I think this was the first time that something like this was attempted. I can’t find any other examples of other fires that had been crowdsourced, maps like that.
Congratulations. That’s huge.