National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Secure Incident Information

One of the most important tasks for the Situation Unit is incorporating updated incident information into the current products for distribution.

There are a multitude of ways updates can be captured and this is an ongoing process throughout the entire incident which can quickly become an overwhelming workload if not organized.

Best practices include establishing and communicating hard deadlines for edits for the next operational period (e.g., 1900 hrs.), establishing deadlines for periodic edits based on meeting schedules (e.g., 1500 hrs. for afternoon planning meeting), and properly documenting all changes received.

Incident data received by the GISS should be filed in the appropriate subfolder of the \incident_data folder of the GeoOps incident directory structure and named per GeoOps naming conventions.

Markup Maps


Updating Perimeter Line from Uncontained to Contained, Management Action Points, Division Breaks. Planning meeting will cause updates, also updates throughout the day from various sections.

Best Practices

Markup maps become records and are saved in the incident ‘doc box’ in case they are needed later for review. Try and consolidate markups on as few maps as possible (preferably a single map). Document specific markups with comments, contact info for markup source, and Situation Unit Leader (SITL) approval.

Watch Outs

SITL approval needed for all updates. Safety zones need to be accurate dependent of scale on map (symbol on the map could show up in the wrong spot). Markups need to come through official channels (through the SITL), in a format that can be documented (no text messages!!).

Field Data Collection


New incident points, event lines, GPS perimeter, suppression repair. Updates to existing incident features.

Best Practices

  • Field MapsSITL approval process in place. Username is captured automatically in the Create Name and Edit Name fields when a new feature is created or updated in the NIFS. Comment field is a critical element that should be filled out whenever possible.
  • Avenza: Establish a standardized workflow for Avenza data.
  • GPS: Map and evaluate GPS data with data collector, capture additional comments, and metadata with that person.
  • Coordinates: Capture on general messages whenever possible for documentation. Confirm source coordinate reference system. Plot and map coordinates and reconfirm plotted locations with the person who provided the coordinates.
  • Standardize coordinate format to degrees decimal minutes if possible. Communicate standard to incident staff.

Watch Outs

  • Offline-Editing Conflicts in the National Incident Feature Service (NIFS) and other Hosted Feature Services [see below].
  • Features collected requiring other approval at a higher level (e.g., proposed helispots must be approved by Air Ops, safety zones must be approved by safety officer).
  • Avenza: Do not attach pictures when emailing.
  • GPS: Datum, coordinate system issues. Clearing device of old data or data from other fires. Make sure contact info is attached to the GPS device.
  • Coordinates: Coordinates received without Datum or unclear format.

The National Incident Feature Service (NIFS) and other ArcGIS Online hosted feature services provide huge advantages in terms of data sharing and a common operating picture. However, it is important to remember that these advantages are due to everyone using the same dataset. Editing this dataset is a responsibility not to take lightly and is often complicated by a lack of connectivity in typical wildfire environments. Offline editing allows us to mitigate this issue but introduces its own complications and added considerations.

Offline editing in ArcGIS employs a “last in, wins” policy for conflict resolution. This applies to both offline maps in Collector/Field Maps and Offline Copies in ArcGIS Pro.

Conflicts are detected at the feature level. Meaning if two users edit the same feature, even if they each edit different attributes, it is considered a conflict, and the feature from the user who syncs second (last) will completely overwrite the first (essentially deleting the first user’s edit).

Features that are included but not edited in an offline Collector/Field Maps map or Pro Offline Copy will not overwrite anything during a sync.

Example 1:

A Field Observer (FOBS) takes a Collector/Field Maps map offline before leaving the ICP in the morning. The FOBS makes edits all day, including changing the Repair Status field on DP10 to Needs Repair.

While the FOBS in the field, the Geographic Information System Specialist (GISS) is instructed to move DP10 half a mile down the road. The GISS creates an Offline Copy, moves the point, updates the attributes, and syncs back to the NIFS. 

The FOBS returns that evening and syncs their edits.

The moved DP10 will be replaced with the feature present in the FOBS data, meaning it will return to the prior location with the prior attributes, with the Repair Status field update made by the FOBS.

Example 2:

A FOBS takes a Collector/Field Maps map offline before leaving the ICP in the morning. The FOBS makes edits all day, including changing the Repair Status field on DP10 to Needs Repair.

Meanwhile, the GISS creates an Offline Copy and adds several new drop points but does not edit DP10. The edits are synced back to the NIFS.

The FOBS returns that evening and syncs their edits.

Since no features were edited by both users, there are no conflicts and all edits are kept in the NIFS.

Example 3:

A FOBS takes a Collector/Field Maps map offline before leaving the ICP in the morning. The FOBS makes edits all morning to existing features.

A GISS creates an Offline Copy and runs Calculate Geometry on all the features.

The FOBS finds good cellular reception at lunch and syncs before the GISS syncs their Offline Copy.

The GISS syncs, overwriting every edit the FOBS made before lunch.

Example 4:

The GISS on Fire A is unable to create an Offline Copy of all the Fire A features without including several points from Fire B.

The GISS on Fire A creates an Offline Copy and begins making edits, but is careful not to touch any of the included Fire B points.

The GISS on Fire B moves one of the Fire B points that are included in the Fire A Offline Copy.

The GISS on Fire A finishes their edits and runs Calculate Geometry on the entire Event Point layer, then syncs.

The GISS on Fire B sees the moved point revert back to the location it was when Fire A created their Offline Copy.

Example 5:

FOBS 1 and FOBS 2 are both assigned to Div A.

FOBS 1 is assigned to collect pump locations while FOBS 2 is assigned to assess the Repair Status of suppression features.

Both are using offline maps in Collector/Field Maps.

FOBS 1 decides to update the Comments on several of the line features throughout the day.

That evening FOBS 2 returns first and syncs their edits. FOBS 1 returns and syncs second, overwriting all the features on which they updated the Comments. All edits made by FOBS 2 on those features are lost.

GISS Watch Outs!

  • Editing an Offline Copy in the evening when field editors are returning to camp and syncing their offline maps.
  • Running bulk update tools such as Calculate Geometry or custom scripts on Offline Copies. Especially when data from other incidents is present.
  • Multiple field editors working in the same area without coordinating assignments.

Remote Sensing

  1. NIROPS (Night-time InfraRed Operations) – National Infrared Operations. Data posted to FTP site and loaded into IR feature layers of the NIFS.
  2. IAA Support (Incident Awareness and Assessment) – includes non-NIROPS operational support and perimeter mapping, new heat detection, and FireGuard. Request support and view mission status on the IAA Hub Site; data posted to EGP Situation Analyst > Intelligence and Resources Workspace > Airborne Intel (All Aircraft).
  3. Gray Sky Imagery Service – Imagery service provided by the Geospatial Intelligence Center. High-resolution aerial imagery collected over areas that experience significant structural damage or loss. This will only be available on select incidents, but features rapid collection and processing when it is. Search the NIFC Org for Gray Sky Imagery to find the current-year service.
  4. EGP Satellite Imagery

Other Data

  • Data Source – TFR shapefile – shapefile download at top of page near NOTAM number.
  • Data Source – TFR feature service – review the service description for update frequency.



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