Building Firewatch Australia - Introduction

Firewatch Australia is a free app released over the 2019-2020 Australian Bushfire season to help track bushfires. This is the introduction of a series of 5 posts on building the app. Take a look at the next post on Data Processing to learn more.

In December 2019 my parents travelled across the world from the UK to Australia paying me a visit for the first time in 8 years. We had an intense few weeks planned travelling the east coast from Cairns to Gold Coast to Sydney to Narooma. During this time the bushfires hit hard taking many lives and properties in the worst bushfire season Australia has ever seen. We were unsure whether the planned trip could be completed safely and I spent a lot of time switching between different apps and websites trying to obtain data on active fires and road closures.

Whilst flicking between these various apps I realised that most of the data was open and I could pull them together into a single source to make my life easier. If it was useful to me it might very well be useful to others and I could do some good to help people during this time in the form of a free app.

Over the Christmas period I built the Firewatch Australia app bringing together full history of fires from RFS, NASA locations of the active fire fronts and live details of current road closures from Live Traffic NSW.

Thanks to the hard work of my partner and her family the app had over 3000 active users in just a couple of days with positive feedback that it was helping. It spent a brief amount of time in the Top Charts on the App Store for reference apps even beating out the Bible!

Image of app store top chart listing showing Firewatch Australia in the number 3 spot.

This series of posts will cover the tech stack used to build Firewatch Australia including:

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