Blue Flower

Spotting fires from Space

Incident Alert is now mapping heat sources located by two satellites on our main map page as a trial for the 2010/11 fire season.

We are utilising a small proportion of the data from two NASA satellites called Terra (launched 1999) and Aqua (launched 2002) to map anomalies in reflected heat in attempting to identify bushfire progression over 48 hours.

How it works

Each Satellite orbits the earth over the two poles and maps an area of approximately  2330 km by 10km at a time. It takes up to two days to map the entire globe. Data is returned to earth and a list of potential heat sources is extrapolated around fours later which also shows a level of confidence.

Fires need to be at least one square kilometre to be identified although smaller fires will be recognised on occasions. Identification of fires can be hindered by extensive smoke, clouds and forest canopy. A fire in scrubby desert will be identified more easily than a larger fire that is smouldering fire under a canopy.

Display of data

Currently we display data that appears to have a 40% confidence level or more up to 48 hours since the scan although this may change without notice. Only fires in SA, Vic, NSW, southern Queensland and Tasmania will be shown although other states and NZ may appear from time to time for testing purposes.

As the data ages we degrade the dots. The example is a fire that is burning towards Four Ways in Queensland. The first scan 44 hours ago picked up five hot spots in the top left corner. The next two scans saw the fire move south east and increase in size. The final five bright dots show the fire from around five hours ago. Dots are shaded orange if the confidence is under 75%. The gaps between the dots are areas burnt whilst the satellites were scanning elsewhere.



Heat spots are only accurate at best to one square kilometre and greater the closer to the edge of the scan line. It doesn't matter how far you zoom in, the data is still limited to being an estimation of where the heat source is. It also takes between four and six hours to show the data collected by the satellite due to data transfer speeds between the satellite and ground stations (6.1 Mbit/s on average).


A recent fire at Londonderry, near Penrith, NSW shows four heat spots with only one of these bordering the actual burnt area. Dots located near each other does not mean that you can assume the area between has been totally affected.



 Incident Alert thanks the University of Maryland for FIRMS and NASA for the satellite data.

NASA/University of Maryland, 2002. MODIS Hotspot / Active Fire Detections. Data set. MODIS Rapid Response Project, NASA/GSFC [producer], University of Maryland, Fire Information for Resource Management System [distributors]. Available on-line

Incident Alert can now supply local incidents straight into your community or business Twitter or Facebook account directly so that your followers are aware of any potential incident. Contact us if you are interested in syndicating this information.

Mornington Peninsula residents can now use our new Twitter Account IncidentAlertMP which covers the area of the shire. Larger fires to the north of the shire are also included.This will allow you to have a reduced number of tweet, more relevant to you.

Other Twitter Feeds

IncidentAlert runs local feeds in South Australia and Victoria. Three accounts you can consider are...

View Mornington Peninsula in a larger map


Macedon Ranges residents can now use our new Twitter Account IncidentAlertMR which covers the area of the shire with larger fires just outside the shire are also included.This will allow you to have a reduced number of tweet, more relevant to you.

Other Twitter Feeds

IncidentAlert runs local feeds in South Australia and Victoria. Three accounts you should alsp consider are...

  • Incident_Alert - All larger fires for Victoria
  • IncidentAlert02 - Incidents in CFA District 2 which covers Macedon Ranges and over to Bendigo
  • IncidentAlert12 - CFA District 12 Is to the North and North East of Macedon Ranges.
  • IncidentAlert14 - CFA District 14 stretches from Lara around the western and northern suburbs as far as Diamond Creek
  • IncidentAlert15 - CFA District 15 stretches is based around Ballarat and stretches to the west of Macedon Ranges.

Please note that Incident Alert is not associated with any official emergency service and you should follow those accounts as well.

Cycling in the Dandenong Ranges during the bushfire season

Several of the Dandenong Ranges Fire Brigade Groups have teamed up to create a pamphlet on cycling in the Dandenong Ranges during the bushfire season.

The  Fire Safe Cycling in the Dandenong Ranges Pamphlet provides some basic information on pre-planning your cycling and what you should do in the event of fire. You should also remember that it is not only how hot the day is but how windy and how humid it is.  Anything over 30kph wind speed will increase fire intensity beyond normal. Humidity below 15% is also a danger with fire speed and your own personal hydration. Both of these figures are available on most weather stations on the update hourly.

The local CFA vols are concerned with the number of riders on Total Fire ban days, especially on the the Tourist Road and the 1:20. If a fire does break out, it's time to pull the pin and have a well earned coffee down the bottom of the hill.

 Safer Places

There are a number of Safer Places identified including 11 in the Yarra Ranges if fire does occur. Please note these if you ride at any time over summer in Victorian countryside - and why wouldn't you want to ride.

 Many thanks to the brigades of Kalorama, Olinda and Sassafras-Ferny Creek for the providing this information. We were not associated with the production of the pamphlet and hold no copyright over it.