The company’s announcement comes as destructive fires are burning in a number of western states.
With major wildfires burning in California and other states across the West, Google on Thursday announced it is launching new features to provide people with information about wildfires, including maps of their boundaries, in Google Maps and in the company’s search engine.
The company says it is using data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites to provide the fire boundary information, enabling people to see on their phones or computers approximately where a wildfire is burning. This information will appear in “near real time,” according to Google, with updates about once every hour.
Other fire-related information also will appear in Google searches and maps, including fires’ names, related news stories and resources from local emergency agencies.
On Google Maps, people will receive warnings if they’re approaching an active wildfire. And if someone is looking at an area near one of the blazes on a map, they’ll get an alert guiding them to the latest information about it.
Google says it worked last year with emergency management officials in California and Boulder, Colorado as it developed its latest wildfire features.
The company warns that the maps are meant to be for informational purposes only, that fire boundaries could vary by several miles from how they’re displayed and that the outlines don’t denote areas that are subject to evacuation orders. Looking ahead, Google says it’s hoping to incorporate additional satellite data to provide higher resolution maps of areas that are burning.