Fire Evacuation Mapping With GIS

Liz Ferguson
Ocean Science Analytics
EYH Teen STEM Café


EYH Teen STEM Café in San Diego held a cool café on GIS with a presentation from their adult leader Liz Ferguson. GIS, which stands for Geographic Information Systems, is a powerful tool that can be used to understand spatial patterns of natural habitats or man-made structures. There are 5 components of GIS: computer hardware, software, data, people, and methods. With all these components, GIS combines spatial data and other kinds of information into a single system. GIS allows us to analyze and display data in unique ways to help make connections between different types of information and their geographic location. In terms of wildfires, it can be used to understand how fires spreads within a community or habitat. This is particularly relevant to the EYH teens because we live in the dry desert climate of San Diego. Liz designed this Café to help students be visually aware of the locations of historical wildfires. She also had the students use the compiled data to develop an evacuation plan specifically for their neighborhood, for themselves, and their families in event of a wildfire.

Hands on Activity

In this computer-based workshop, students learned how to use GIS to look at historical patterns in fires within their community or adjacent parts of the county. They learned to how to build a map using a GIS Software called ArcMAP (ESRI), pulling up ZIP codes and familiar locations in San Diego. They were able to color code neighborhoods and label important buildings and identify fire stations. Then using GIS data, they identified the quickest route to safety and developed a fire evacuation map that can be used in the event of a wildfire in their neighborhood.