Fire Incidents

It’s not a good idea to go walking when there’s a bush fire nearby, hence it’s important for us to include bush fire information on BeyondTracks. We do this by showing all fire incidents on the map, and then again alerts for fire incidents nearby each walk.

At the moment we only do this for NSW, but in the future we hope to expand it Australia wide.

BeyondTracks map showing fire incidents
BeyondTracks map showing fire incidents
BeyondTracks fire incident alert
BeyondTracks fire incident alert

Source Data

Tim Berners-Lee suggested a 5-star rating system for open data:

★ make your stuff available on the Web (whatever format) under an open license

★★ make it available as structured data (e.g., Excel instead of image scan of a table)

★★★ make it available in a non-proprietary open format (e.g., CSV instead of Excel)

★★★★ use URIs to denote things, so that people can point at your stuff

★★★★★ link your data to other data to provide context

Star 1 - The NSW Rural Fire Service publish information about active incidents and release it under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, thus allowing us to legally include their fire incident information on BeyondTracks without needing to ask permission.

Star 2 & 3 - They publish machine readable and structured* feeds of fire incidents, in RSS, CAP (XML) and GeoJSON formats.

Star 4 - URI’s are used to denote specific incidents, eg. however those URI’s don’t publicly resolve, so we can’t link directly to an incident.

Overall the NSW Rural Fire Service has done a good job in making this data open and available, although there’s room for improvement, what is in place currently meets about 90% of our need.

Future Improvements

"description": "ALERT LEVEL: Advice <br />LOCATION: 875 Aarons Pass Rd, Pyramul, NSW 2850 <br />COUNCIL AREA: Mid-Western <br />STATUS: Under control <br />TYPE: Bush Fire <br />FIRE: Yes <br />SIZE: 3 ha <br />RESPONSIBLE AGENCY: Rural Fire Service <br />UPDATED: 4 Jan 2019 15:35"

We can manually parse this out, but the data would be even more machine readable and structured if this was decomposed into a native JSON object.

We use these descriptions on BeyondTracks as tooltips when hovering over the specific terms.

Data Transformation

We’ve open sourced our Node module we use to aid working with the RFS’s GeoJSON feed, specifically this:

Furthermore on the client side we filter fire incidents to only show bush fires, grass fires, hazard reduction, haystack fires and burn offs. Other incidents like motor vehicles accidents and search/rescue aren’t relevant so we don’t show them.


Timely information is critical, a lot can change in a few hours. All we can do is try to minimise the delay between RFS publishing information and BeyondTracks showing it. We mirror the RFS data every 5 minutes, and show two pieces of temporal information for each alert.

Last updated 15 minutes ago, current as of 3 minutes ago

The Last updated is when the RFS last updated any information for this specific incident, the current as of is when we last pulled the latest information from the RFS.

Future Work