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Tracking Wildfires: Where To Find Information During California Fire Season

Noah Berger / AP Photo

Cal Fire Division Chief Mark Higgins directs helicopters dropping water as the River Fire burns in Lakeport, Calif., Tuesday, July 31, 2018.

Noah Berger / AP Photo

In California, wildfires are a fact of life. And when a fire starts in your community, knowing where to turn for critical information can save you time and stress.

We’ve assembled a list of the places you can find official updates on everything from fire size and location, to evacuation orders and road closures. Keep in mind that emergency situations develop quickly, so information may come haphazardly and from different sources along the way.

If you have suggestions, questions or corrections on this post, please email digiteam@capradio.org.

State and national agencies

Cal Fire, the state’s fire protection agency, post updates about major fire incidents to its website. They typically keep track of the fire’s location, size and containment and provide details about evacuations, destruction and firefighting progress.

It’s a great place to start when looking for updates, because even if a major fire is not under Cal Fire’s jurisdiction, they still include it on their list with a link out to the lead agency providing information, whether that’s a national forest or a local department.

Another resource to check for fire information is InciWeb, a national inter-agency website that provides information about fires on public lands.

The United States Geological Survey also maintains a website with more real-time wildfire maps, including hot spot perimeters based on satellite data.

In addition, you can find information about wildfires and other emergencies on the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services website. Details about wildfire recovery can be found at wildfirerecovery.org.

Social media

In recent years social media has become a primary communication channel for official fire updates from local, state and federal agencies.

When looking for the latest on a fire in your area, Twitter and Facebook are great resources, but use caution when relying on social media for information if it’s not coming from an official source. Posts may not be accurate or up-to-date.

Agencies that may be providing updates include Cal Fire, Caltrans, counties, sheriff’s offices, and local fire departments.

You can also use hashtags of the fire’s name — for example, #CampFire or #SandFire — to monitor information about a specific fire across social media.

The list below contains official accounts that often post reliably about wildfires in Northern California. We’ve also created a Twitter list for wildfire updates that you can follow here.

Cal Fire (See a full list of official Cal Fire Twitter accounts here)

National Forests

Caltrans (road closures, hazards, etc.)

Sheriff’s Offices

Counties

Other

CA Governor's Office of Emergency Services (@Cal_OES)

Emergency alerts, media and scanners

It’s important to be signed up for emergency alerts from your county so that you can find out immediately about evacuation orders and other critical information. Find your county in the list below with a link to the sign-up form:

While it's also possible to listen to police scanner traffic, keep in mind that information changes rapidly and initial reports are often updated, so you should use caution when using that information.

You can also turn to your local news outlet for the latest on major fires in your area. Many organizations (including CapRadio!) and individual reporters will provide regular updates on Twitter.

For more information on how you can prepare for wildfires, such as by creating defensible space around your home and assembling an evacuation kit, see this post.

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