App tracks firefighting assets

As the worst fire in Colorado's history sweeps across thousands of acres, an interagency wildfire management organization has begun deploying a Web application to manage firefighting resources online.

Through the National Interagency Resource Ordering and Status System (ROSS), agencies that fight fires can go online to order everything from food to airplanes, said ROSS project leader Jon Skeels of the Forest Service.

The system also provides users with up-to-date information on the delivery status of their orders, he said.

'Right now, we have a big fire, and the news says that we are short on resources,' Skeels said. 'But it may be that we have a lack of information on the resources that we have.'

Six thousand dispatchers spread across 400 dispatch and coordination offices nationwide will use ROSS. The system was developed by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, which is made up of federal agencies such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as state forestry agencies.

The Forest Service, which coordinated development of the system, has spent $7 million on the project each year since 1997.

Lockheed Martin Corp.'s information support services division in Falls Church, Va., is the prime contractor.

Who has what where

ROSS has an administrative function that gives users basic information on a dispatch office's organization and resources.

The system also has a status function that shows dispatch officials what resources are available in an office.

Dispatchers use the function to check the location and status of aircraft in an area, rather than having to call around to dispatch centers.

Such information also is sent daily to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, but by the time it's compiled, it's outdated, Skeels said.

A resource ordering component lets managers place orders for aircraft, equipment, supplies and firefighting crews.

Paul Condit, ROSS project manager for Lockheed Martin, said users can download the system software from the ROSS Web site, at ross.nwcg.gov.

Status reports

ROSS uses Versata Logic Server from Versata Inc. of Oakland, Calif., to automate rules for resource status reporting and ordering, Condit said.

The system uses Apache HTTP Server Version 2.0 freeware, which can be downloaded at httpd.apache.org, to host Web applications.

The system's data is stored in an Oracle8i database that resides on IBM RS/6000 and Netfinity 6000 servers running Microsoft Windows 2000. The servers are located at the Agriculture Department's National IT Center in Kansas City, Mo.

ROSS uses Brio Reports from Brio Software Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., to access the Oracle8i database and generate reports, and ArcIMS from ESRI of Redlands, Calif., helps dispatchers overlay maps.

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