Wildfires Scorch San Diego

UNITED STATES Nine wildfires are burning across San Diego County, as record dry conditions, warm temperatures, and gusty winds contribute to an early start to the Golden State’s fire season. (National Geographic News) Use our resources to make your own fire map.

Map courtesy California Fire News
Map courtesy California Fire News

Discussion Ideas

  • Take a look at the fire map above, provided by California Fire News (CFN). Compare it with this nice map from the good folks at Fox 5 San Diego, and Cal Fire’s updated Google map. All three maps display the same geographic information, but present it in vastly different ways. How are the maps different?
    • Base layers: The CFN map uses a street-map base layer. The Fox 5 map uses a satellite view. The Cal Fire map uses another version of a street map.
    • Symbols to indicate fire location: The CFN map provides approximate perimeters of the fires, with outline color indicating the level of containment. The Fox 5 map points to each fire by name. The Cal Fire map uses the flame symbol to indicate where the fires are, with different colors indicating the level of containment.
    • Interactivity: The CFN and Fox 5 map are static—you can’t click on them for additional information. The Cal Fire map is interactive—you can click on the flame symbols to get information about the status of the fire and a link for the latest updates.


  • Read the terrific blog post “Create and Share with MapMaker Interactive,” which explains how you can create your own “geo-tour” to share with the world. OK, so now make your own fire map. Use information from the California Fire News map (above) a map from the Fox 5 San Diego news crew, and Cal Fire’s Google map. Remember not to include too much—decide who your audience is, and what information you want to communicate with them.
    • What base layer will you choose? (The MapMaker Interactive defaults to the “Nat Geo” map layer, and you can change it in the upper right hand corner—topographic? satellite? street map? terrain?)
    • What markers will you use? (The flame marker is an easy one!)
      • the house marker could indicate residential areas
      • the building marker could indicate businesses or office towers
      • the airplane marker could indicate regional airports
      • the factory marker could indicate industrial areas
      • the train marker could indicate light rail or railroads
      • the cow marker could indicate agricultural areas
      • the school marker could indicate schools or universities
    • What drawing tools will you use?
      • the free-form line tool or polygon tool could indicate the perimeter of the fires
      • the label tool could name the fires
      • the link tool allows you to fully customize your drawing or label with a title, text or description (possibly the containment of the fire, acres burned, and/or latest updates), and provide a link (possibly to photos or the latest update from social media)
    • Are you going to include any themes on your map?
      • population density might be a good one to include (available as part of the “Human Systems: Population and Culture” theme)
      • the “human footprint” and “land cover” layers might also be helpful (available as part of the “Environment and Society” theme)


  • Here’s a map I just made! I used our street-map base layer; the flame and airplane markers; the link tool to include information on the fire’s containment, affected area, and update status; the link tool again to indicate the open/closed status of the airport; and the population density theme. And it was easy!

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