Google Earth Blog

Using Google Earth and goats to combat wildfires.

We have brought you many stories in the past involving Google Earth and wildfire. For example, stories about people and organizations using Google Earth to monitor wildfires in progress, coordinate rescue operations, map global fire data and simulate forest fires.

But, prevention is better than cure, so to take it a step further, here is a story about how Shea Broussard and business partner Tony Shafer created FlameMapper.

Using historical data of fire paths, they map out the ideal places to graze the goats so as to stop wildfires from spreading. They use the Google Earth plugin to display the map on their website and use GPS and the map to decide where to place electric fencing which is moved around to control where the goats graze. The electric fencing also helps to keep mountain lions from eating the goats, but despite this they have lost 5 goats to a local mountain lion over the last 2 years.

The site also shows the current location of the goats. They do not track the mountain lions….

Has it worked? According to Shane:

We have yet to have a big wildfire come through the community. We are about 2 years overdue for a wildfire when you look at the fire history.”

Carefully planned grazing is not the only thing they are doing to prevent fire, they are also planting lots of Oak trees.

We are currently growing 12,000 Oak trees with the Los Angeles County Fire Department Forest Division. Oak trees simply reduce fire intensity. Reduced fire intensity can save lives.”

For more, watch this YouTube video by Smile TV or read this story

My sister is a farmer in Livingstone, Zambia, and she too uses goats for creating fire breaks. She doesn’t have anything as sophisticated as FlameMapper, but does use Google Earth and GPS for planning where to put the fire breaks.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

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