Operational since 2006, OK-FIRE is a weather-based decision-support system for wildland fire management. OK-FIRE uses the Oklahoma Mesonet for current/recent conditions and an 84-hour forecast to predict weather, fire danger, and smoke dispersion conditions out to three days in the future. Accordingly, with respect to wildfire, OK-FIRE is useful for monitoring not only current fire danger conditions, but also, with its predictive component, for suppression strategies on existing fires and assessing fire danger potential over the next three days, which can aid in determining staffing levels. With respect to prescribed fire, the system can be used to safely plan for and monitor conditions during a prescribed burn.
A new OK-FIRE module within http://mesonet.org is expected to be made public by the end of April. By mid 2017 the current OK-FIRE website will no longer be available. The first ever training on the new system will be offered at the OSFA State Fire School in Tulsa (May 4-7), with two 6-hour workshops (each one the same) being offered by J. D. Carlson, OK-FIRE Program Manager, on Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6. The location will be Tulsa Community College's Northeast Campus and workshops will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with lunch provided. Registration is required, but is free and can be done at:
Find the course you wish to take ("Learning the New OK-FIRE" in this case) and click the small box in the upper left corner of the blue box associated with the course. After selecting the courses, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click "Register Online". Or you can register by calling 1-800-304-5727. Please note you need not attend the entire Fire School; you can register for just the OK-FIRE workshop on the day of your choice.
You will need to bring a tablet (with a large enough screen), notebook, or laptop computer. Wireless internet access will be available as will power outlets to keep the devices charged. Each workshop will consist of a combination of presentations and lab exercises in which the attendees will get hands-on experience with the new OK-FIRE website. Wildfire, as well as prescribed fire, applications will be covered. The workshops are open to anyone who works with wildland fire. As the new system will be substantially different in terms of format and content from the current website, training, even for current OK-FIRE users, will be valuable.
We have been working on a replacement for the current OK-FIRE website for well over a year. The current site is over ten years old and still relies on WeatherScope (a "plug-in") for map animations and zooming. However, smartphones and tablets do not support plug-in technology and thus maps relying on WeatherScope appear as blank pages on those devices. To compound matters, plug-ins are no longer supported by most browsers (except Internet Explorer at this point). Thus even on desktops and notebook computers, many users cannot see the plug-in maps on OK-FIRE anymore. So there are a number of reasons for moving towards a new OK-FIRE.
The new OK-FIRE will be a module within the main Mesonet website (http://mesonet.org) under "Fire Management". It will feature a totally new architecture (ways to get to products) than the current website, have a new user-friendly "home" page, and feature some new products as well. Thus the training will be valuable, not only for new users but also for existing OK-FIRE users.
The current OK-FIRE website (http://okfire.mesonet.org) is expected to run simultaneously with the new OK-FIRE site for a number of months, but is expected to be retired sometime in mid 2017. This will give OK-FIRE users time to transition to the new site and learn its design and features. It is expected that regional workshops at various locations around the state will be offered in the fall of 2017 to help users learn the new system. In the meantime, the two Tulsa workshops in early May constitute the first opportunity for training on the new system.
Dr. J. D. Carlson
OK-FIRE Program Manager
Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering
Oklahoma State University
As you may know, since the debut of OK-FIRE in 2006 we have utilized the WeatherScope plug-in for creating many of our map products. WeatherScope was great for this purpose, as it allowed the creation of maps on your computer's hard drive and included advanced features such as animation, zooming, and overlays. However, smartphones and tablets do not support plug-in technology and thus many of our maps appear as blank pages on those devices. To compound matters, browsers (e.g., Firefox, Internet Explorer) are expected to drop support for this technology in the near future, and certain browsers such as Chrome have already dropped support for plug-ins. Thus even on desktops and notebook computers, many users cannot see the plug-in maps on OK-FIRE anymore.
Since the start of this year, we have been working with Mesonet on a solution to this. As of April 20 we have released the first round of plug-in replacement maps for OK-FIRE. Most of the CURRENT maps using WeatherScope have now been replaced by maps that can be seen across all devices. You can see this clearly in the WEATHER, FIRE, and SMOKE sections, especially in their respective CURRENT subsections (first items on the left menu) under each subject area. The RADAR section has also been modified to allow the viewing of the local radar maps, which
can be zoomed and animated; these maps were formerly plug-in generated as well.
There is more work to be done such as utilizing new technology to replace the current plug-in based recent and forecast animations of our more important maps, as well as retaining the capacity to zoom on some of our maps. These changes will come at a future date and until then, we are retaining use of the WeatherScope technology for these animations (and zooming) in the RECENT and FORECAST subsections of WEATHER, FIRE, and SMOKE to allow those users who still can use WeatherScope with their browsers to continue to view these important map animations (e.g., Firefox and Internet Explorer still support WeatherScope).
We hope our wildland fire users, many of whom have been without benefit of our maps across mobile devices, notebooks, and desktops for some time, will now be able to use these maps once again and find the OK-FIRE website more user-friendly. As we said earlier, there is more to be done, but this is a good first step.
We'd welcome any feedback on this first round of changes.
Dr. J. D. Carlson
OK-FIRE Program Manager
Oklahoma State University