National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Map Elements


Maps are the primary tools by which spatial relationships and geographic data are visualized. The use of standard map elements provides critical information to facilitate the fast and consistent interpretation of map products and ensures that the most appropriate and current map is used. In the interest of encouraging safety, consistency, and accuracy, PMS-936 describes the map elements that everyone should use when creating maps.


All map products should include:

Map elements graph described belowSTANDL (Scale, Title, Author, North arrow, Date and time of preparation, Legend) cartographic elements:

  • Scale (1): A graphical expression of a fixed distance, such as 1,000 feet or 1 mile. A textual description, such as 1:24,000 or 1” = 1 mile is useful if the map is printed at the desired output size; however, because digital maps (such as PDFs) can be printed at various sizes, it is preferable to use a graphical scale bar.
  • Title (2): The basic description of the map, including items such as incident name and map type. The Unit Identifier and the Local Incident Identifier are included (e.g., ID-BOF-0095). For certain maps, the title must also include the operation date and/or period for which the map was produced.
  • Author (3): The person or group that prepared the map.
  • North arrow (4): The graphical display used to orient the map correctly. This element could also include additional direction indicators for magnetic declination or grid angle.
  • Date of preparation (5): Including the date and time the map was produced informs the map user of the currency of the information displayed on the map.
  • Legend (6): The key that describes the meaning of the symbols found on the map.

SGD (Source statement, Graticule/grid, Datum) map elements should be on the Incident Action Plan (IAP) map, and are recommended for use on other maps, as appropriate.

  • Source statement (7): Date and time that key map elements (e.g., fire perimeter) were collected. Other citations for data and/or features on a map may be included, such as source, collection method, accuracy, and coordinate system/projection.
  • Graticule/grid (8): This element is typically a graticule of latitude and longitude marks and numbers that allows referencing of the mapped area to the specific area on the Earth. 
  • Datum (9): The datum must be noted on the map when a graticule/grid is used or if coordinates are displayed. The correct datum is critical for GPS use.



The Geospatial Information System Specialist (GISS) creates map products that include legible STANDL-SGD map elements to ensure maps are accurate and readable for the end user. The Situation Unit Leader (SITL) ensures that each individual map product includes the required STANDL-SGD map elements.


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