National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Directory Structure


There is a required directory structure minimum for GIS data and related documents created and used on incidents managed under the Incident Command System (ICS). The standard directory structure is clear and repeatable; it promotes efficient use and storage of GIS data and ensures a smooth transition between GIS Specialists (GISS) by making it easy to locate data or products. This structure may be used both by incident GIS Specialists and by GIS professionals at the home unit of the incident. The intention is to allow some scalability for variation of incident situation, such as in number of GISS​ personnel, hardware use/availability, software used, available data, and even physical location, while still meeting the needs of those with whom the GISS cooperates.


  • Folder names must not contain spaces, special characters, or periods.
  • The underscore “_” is the only allowable character for delimiting name elements.
  • Capital letters may be used to make names easier to understand.
    • First letter of proper names (e.g., Jones)
    • First letter to delimit multiple words (e.g., ClearCreek, IntenseHeat), often called CamelCase
    • All letters that stand for something (e.g., GPS)
  • The format for dates is eight digits in year, month, day order (yyyymmdd).
  • The format for time is four digits in a 24-hour format (hhmm).
  • The incident directory structure may be stored in any location, but it is recommended to be as close to the drive root as possible.
  • According to agency needs, files for multiple incidents may be stored under an optional root folder named: \[yyyy]_incidents.

Folder Structure

[yyyy_Incidents] (e.g., 2022_Incidents)

[yyyy_incident_name] (e.g., 2022_Maple)

base_data: base data not created on the incident, does not require daily backup

basemaps: topo maps, tile packages, scanned maps

elevation: digital elevation model and hill shade data

logos: agency logos, typically in non-geospatial raster format

orthoimagery: ortho-corrected imagery

vector: vector data file types

documents: spreadsheets, text documents, unit log, digital photos used on maps

incident_data: data created on or for the incident

[subject_directory]: optional/additional folder e.g., rehab/repair, sensitive data

backups: date and time stamped backup incident geodatabases from incident geodatabase for recovery purposes

edit: contains geodatabase used for editing to avoid edit locks with Master Incident Geodatabase. If using OneDrive to store and sync the folder structure, Do Not store the Local Copy in the folder. It should be stored on your computer C:drive.

exports: date and time stamped incident geospatial data export files

final: final date and time stamped incident geospatial data export files for use by the hosting agency or other local organizations

gps: GIS data from field GPS downloads

ir: spatial data created by IRINs

layer files: layer files storing feature templates or incident symbology

Feature Template Layer File.lyrx (one for each GISS)

modified_base_data: base data edited for the incident, e.g., roads, ownership, and structures

Master Incident Geodatabase: the most current geodatabase used as the source for all incident maps. This geodatabase should not be edited

Other Incident Geodatabase: an additional geodatabase that contains incident-specific feature classes, such as Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs)​ or escape routes

Annotation Geodatabase(s): one or more geodatabases for storing annotation

Progression Geodatabase: geodatabase for storing progression data

products: GIS map (e.g., .jpg, .pdf) and other product files produced on the incident

[yyyymmdd]: all map products for the intended date of use, not the date of creation

final: copies of all final map products for the incident

projects: GIS product source documents (e.g., aprx)

backups: backup project files (.aprx) copied from master map document files

Edit Project: aprx, for editing data, one for each GISS. Do not save the Edit Project in a OneDrive synced folder. If using OneDrive to store and sync the incident files, save the Edit Project to a logical place on your local C: drive.

Master Project: aprx, for map production

Restricted: all data and products that contain sensitive, restricted, or controlled-unclassified information

Tools: extensions, tools, or other job aids used on the incident

Event Layer Files: preconfigured .lyrx files for the Event schema

Blank Event GDB: empty file geodatabase in the Event schema

Pro default toolbox: ArcGIS Pro required toolbox

The following is an image of the directory structure on a computer, showing folders and databases:

Image of directory structure as described above



The GISS communicates the directory structure to other GIS Specialists, including the hosting unit GIS staff and regional GIS staff. On an incident, the Situation Unit Leader​ (SITL) (or, in the absence of a SITL, the Planning Section Chief (PSC) or Type 3/Type 4 Incident Commander) ensures that individuals working in the Situation Unit follow NWCG standards, including directory structure conventions. NWCG standards represent a national interagency standard and should not be overridden at the incident level.


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