• Which the release of FS2020 we see an explosition of activity on the forun and of course we are very happy to see this. But having all questions about FS2020 in one forum becomes a bit messy. So therefore we would like to ask you all to use the following guidelines when posting your questions:

    • Tag FS2020 specific questions with the MSFS2020 tag.
    • Questions about making 3D assets can be posted in the 3D asset design forum. Either post them in the subforum of the modelling tool you use or in the general forum if they are general.
    • Questions about aircraft design can be posted in the Aircraft design forum
    • Questions about airport design can be posted in the FS2020 airport design forum. Once airport development tools have been updated for FS2020 you can post tool speciifc questions in the subforums of those tools as well of course.
    • Questions about terrain design can be posted in the FS2020 terrain design forum.
    • Questions about SimConnect can be posted in the SimConnect forum.

    Any other question that is not specific to an aspect of development or tool can be posted in the General chat forum.

    By following these guidelines we make sure that the forums remain easy to read for everybody and also that the right people can find your post to answer it.

Just a fun thing for the GIS types: Wildfires

I live in the Northwest US and the world around us is on fire right now. Frankly I'm scared to death so I've been really following what's going on at all the interagency sites and what not for the past month (we're supposed to get rain Saturday, fingers crossed). At the rate these fires are consuming land I could lose my entire place in 30 seconds flat but so far the nearest fire is very small, 8 miles away, and hasn't grown significantly in the last week. I have been unbelievably fortunate in that a) I got a light dousing of rain about a week ago, b) winds here have been nearly dead calm for two weeks, and c) the last few storms to pass through have been basically lightning free. One cigarette out the window of a car on the highway below though and it could all be over in an hour. That's some scary stuff if you dwell on it so this morning while it was cool I had a play.

First I put some MODIS hot spots in the sim so I could fly over the fires which was fine but it didn't really show the extent of the burn areas. Well you can download the burn perimeters as .kml and you can use gdal_rasterize to turn a .shp into a blend mask so all I needed was a way to turn the .kml into a .shp. There's probably a tool for that but I did it by gathering all the coords out of the .kml and pasting them into a .bln and then appending the .bln into an SBuilderX project. I just set all the polys to Hydro_whatever (so they'd compile) and the .shp I needed wound up in the Shapes folder.

I got a chunk of imagery with SBuilderX a little bigger than the imported .bln burn perimeter and let SBuilderX make an .inf. Then I got the coords from the accompanying .txt file and used them as extents in the gdal_rasterize command which means I ultimately ended up with a blend mask that matched the SBuilderX imagery perfectly with everything but the burn area blended out.

In Photoshop I desaturated the base imagery to sorta simulate burned timber, exported a .tif, and put it all together in the .inf. Well I think I need to work on making the burn area look more like burned timber but the basic process worked perfectly. I hope it doesn't make me morbid to be playing around with something people are losing their houses and even lives over, you really need to see the scope of this stuff though, and flying over it in the sim with the time/distance element gives you a lot better perspective than google earth. Just don't try to use real world weather or you won't be able to see a thing, lol.

Here's a shot over the extreme north end of the big North Star fire near Republic, WA. This is one of the biggest individual fires at 170,000 acres currently:


They just issued new Stage III evacuations an hour ago near Republic, Stage III means "get out now", a lot of these people are setting pets and animals free to fend for themselves because they can't go with them to the shelters that have been set up to receive evacuees. Everyday average people come out of the woodwork in droves though to help out, sending in hay and feed, offering safe pasture land and even transportation to get the animals out. The firefighters are glorified by the media and I don't mean to take anything away from them but it's really the average everyday folks coming out to help with whatever they can that are the heroes here. Some 15 year old girl and her mom standing in a sandwich assembly line making lunches all day for no reason other than because some poor displaced soul will eventually be hungry.
I want to wish you all the best. This has been an unprecedented year for forest fires here in Canada, including my own province of Saskatchewan. In July fires threatened many communities and mass evacuations of as many as 13,000 people took place. That is a significant number for our sparsely populated north. A state of emergency was called and the Canadian Army called in to assist with fighting the fires. Because I live in the southern prairies I was not personally threatened by the fires and our hardship was nothing more than enduring weeks of thick smoke in the air. The plume of smoke from northern Saskatchewan actually reached Tennessee. But that is nothing compared with those whose homes and communities were lost and damaged, and those who had to live away from home while not knowing what they might come home to. Pets and animals were a concern here too. Let us all hope that you get a lot of rain soon.

I think you have really captured the essence of fires. Well done.

Best wishes,
Hi Greg, yes I remember reading about the fires up there earlier and as early and as far north as those fires were I'll admit it was a bit of a shock. We've had 5 or 6 abnormally cool and wet summers in a row here in N. Idaho so I guess we're paying the piper now. This entire season has been running about a month early since January. Honestly, I can still say I've seen it drier, but that's only good for about 3 more days, lol. Smoke has been a problem for nearly 3 weeks here too but I agree that's a pretty insignificant complaint when you consider some of the smoke is from someone's house. Weather forecast says a cold front moving in with possible rain Saturday followed by a return to more fall-like temperatures with rain here and there for the foreseeable future so if nothing else daytime highs in the mid 60s (F) vs mid 80s will help a lot.

Thanks for the comments. :)
Great work Jim on the fire scenery, but definitely keep your eye on the real thing, like you said if things go south, the situation can change in a hurry.

We have been in an ongoing drought for several years in Southern California and many forested areas are in tinder-box conditions, and like the earthquakes, its just a matter of time until the next big one. Lately we see situations where the fires burn their way down to our major interstates, and the cars and trucks get trapped, with no where to go, pretty scary stuff.

What is shaping up to be a contender for the strongest El Niño in recorded history could bring us about two-thirds of the way out of the drought, but with it will come flooding and hill-slides, and eventually abundant growth of vegetation which will lead to even worse fire conditions in the following summer months.

Having seen a few fires recently at close proximity I wonder if it is possible to create a smoke colored anvil-shaped thunder cloud to simulate a high altitude smoke plume?

Also, one of the more startling effects of fires are the embers left behind as the fire advances. One evening while working in Southern Arizona, we were heading back to Tucson from Sierra Vista in a massive lightening storm when one of the guys asked "is that a city over there?".

What he was seeing was the embers left by a large fire which had burnt its way over the hill and out of sight. The high winds which had accompanied the lightening storm had somehow blown the smoke parallel to the ground and it had disappeared over the hill along with the fire, and there had been no visible plume of smoke, only the bright twinkling lights of the embers fanned by the wind which indeed looked like the lights of city, or perhaps the twinkling of stars reflected on a lake on a clear night. I had seen this effect before over the years both from the ground and the air and wonder if such an effect could be added to the blackened areas of what you have made as pictured above?

You are absolutely correct on the regular folks who help out in these situations, God bless them.
Be safe up there.



Resource contributor
Not exactly related to Jim's project, but thought some of you might find this video relevant:

Be sure to mind the firefighting TFRs! (Well, not really an issue in the sim, but still... :p)

Having seen a few fires recently at close proximity I wonder if it is possible to create a smoke colored anvil-shaped thunder cloud to simulate a high altitude smoke plume?

The default Cntrl_ForestFireSingle effect adds a smoke layer above the fire (presumably using fx_ForestFireSmoke), but it isn't an anvil cloud. Perhaps the effect could be adjusted, though.

That is really interseting and creative work with the scenery Jim, great job. I know what you mean about seeming morbid. I have had the same feeling many times when I've just thought about creating simulated events in Flight Simulator. A few years ago there was a cyclone (Cyclone Yasi) that hit Queensland and caused a lot of damage around Cairns and Townsville. There were many many people left homeless and a few deaths also unfortunately. I did at the time create a real world weather setup on FSX to see if it would create cyclone strength winds in the sim and to see what it would be like flying. I flew in it once and felt really guilty for even creating it. After hearing about Malaysian Airlines MH370's disappearance I thought about recreating that flight in FSX, not for fun but to try and understand the facts and see what could have happened. I never did this. I also felt guilty, and a bit morbid the other day watching video of the Shoreham Airshow disaster, as I do any time I watch a plane crash.

I hope you stay safe and that the bushfires can be brought under control for everyones sake. I saw on the news the other day that they were risking deploying Smoke Jumpers as the situation was so bad. All the best.


Thanks for the replies and comments everyone. Things are definitely looking up, I actually got a few sprinkles yesterday and it's cooled off significantly with some overcast. I was looking at the doppler a minute ago and I think the Okanagan firefighters are about to get some help. Only problem is they issued a red flag warning for high winds, gusts up to 65 mph in the mountains between now and 7 PM, but I just don't see it happening, it's dead still here at the moment and it seems too settled in for crazy storms but we'll see. They issued a red flag last week for dry lightning and all we got was a couple hours of overcast one morning so I'm hoping this is a false alarm as well. Supposed to be more rain coming this afternoon and on and off for the coming days. My nearest fire isn't even showing up in the MODIS this morning so that's a big relief. Smoke's dissipated considerably and I can see mountains around me again. With the coming rain I don't think we'll see any more of the dangerously dry conditions so I'd be a little surprised to see any new starts, big fires could still get bigger but I think I'm in the clear!

BTW they had this story on the news last night about the tankers, there's some awesome footage in the video of the DC10 tanker doing a drop over some houses, check it out:


EDIT: BTW I wanted to add this, they mentioned they'd broken a record for retardant drops that's been standing since the Sundance fire of '67. Sundance was 10 miles away from me and I saw it all however I was five years old! I'd never seen a helicopter before! To my knowledge it still holds the record for "run", or acres consumed/time. It ran about 10 miles across the mountain tops in 9 hours growing from 30 acres to 52,000 acres in that time. It happened at night and I remember the orange glow over the mountains was like daylight. They said there were 300 mph winds over the fire and I remember a fence post sized chunk of burned tree was found in a farmer's field about 25 miles away. Just a tidbit, I meant to add that when I posted but forgot.
Last edited:
From what I saw of that video, pretty awesome. Those Avro RJ85's look like the ones I saw at this years Avalon Airshow, and even had the same number (162) on the tail. I also saw and photographed a Hercules tanker, which also had a US registration.

After watching the video (after it finally worked for me) I now see that both of the tankers I saw at Avalon were in that clip. I was really impressed by them on the day of the airshow; it's great to see them in action.

Here are some photos I took:












Thanks for the pics Scott, those are awesome! I had no idea these tankers were so far-ranging, but I guess if you soak a bunch of money into outfitting a plane to do this naturally you can't have it sitting around 9 months out of the year during the off-season so the logical thing to do would be to follow the fire seasons around the planet throughout the year. One thing I've been wondering about is do they compromise the pressure vessel when they install these tanks and drop door assembly? I can't imagine you can make gaping holes in the fuselage and still be able to pressurize it. That must make for some long, slow flights at low altitudes whenever they have to ferry them over great distances? Oxygen I guess?


Resource contributor
Coming back to the original idea of getting those wildfires into FSX:
You could convert that original kml polygon into a line and then use FSXKML to place thoe wildfire FX along that vector (line), so the wildfires will run all along the border between the normal and burnt forest.
There also is a much easier way of doing what you did by simply importing the original shape file into QGIS and rasterizing it.
Jeez, on the first attempt above the time stamp on the imagery I downloaded with SBuilder was 7:12 AM and the time stamp on the .bgl was 8:24 AM so we're talking 1:12 to do this from start to finish, lol. Later that day I added 7 more fires in not much longer than it took me to do the first one. Besides that the blend mask needs to match the SBuilderX imagery and if you just rasterize the shape the resulting .tif ends at the extents of the shape so you have to use -te in the rasterize command and tell it what the corner coords of the imagery are. Also -tr which is xdim/ydim from the .inf or else it has no way of knowing how large to make the blend mask. I don't know how QGIS would know those values unless you type/paste them into a box in the UI and that's basically what I did except I typed/pasted them all at once into a command window instead.

The fire FX are placed according to infrared satellite data from a .csv I downloaded from NASA and they use effectParams="MOY=08,08;DOM=nnn,nnn" to put them at their correct locations depending on what day in August you have the sim time set to. They're not included in the hour and 12 minutes above though, I did those the previous evening. I placed about 700 fire effects for each day in a week's time period spread out across 3 states with a macro in Textpad and bglcomp.


Resource contributor
Well you can download the burn perimeters as .kml and you can use gdal_rasterize to turn a .shp into a blend mask so all I needed was a way to turn the .kml into a .shp. There's probably a tool for that [...]

I'm fairly certain gdal_rasterize will actually accept a KML file as a source. The documentation says "src_datasource: Any OGR supported readable datasource", and KML is on the list of supported formats. However, if you ever want to convert a KML to a SHP for some other reason, you can use ogr2ogr (documentation here) with something like this: ogr2ogr -f "ESRI Shapefile" output.shp input.kml.

The fire FX are placed according to infrared satellite data from a .csv I downloaded from NASA and they use effectParams="MOY=08,08;DOM=nnn,nnn" to put them at their correct locations depending on what day in August you have the sim time set to. They're not included in the hour and 12 minutes above though, I did those the previous evening. I placed about 700 fire effects for each day in a week's time period spread out across 3 states with a macro in Textpad and bglcomp.

If you think it'd be useful, I could build a utility to parse the data and generate an appropriate placement XML. Alternatively, if you're just interested in the most current data, you could use FS Active Fires (project link, FSDeveloper thread) to get the fires in the sim.
The ability to semi-automatically display real-world wildfire locations in FS is certainly an impressive accomplishment, which can make for some interesting flying "adventures" ! :cool:

I'm wondering if Jim, Ollyau, Dean, Thorsten and/or others here, may have yet successfully been able to add another enhancement to this type of flying experience via a "mission"-type of interactivity ? :scratchch

I'm envisioning flight scenarios where we can actually practice our 'water-bombing' skills extinguishing such fires with air tankers, and to be able to see the fires go out with a brief plume of smoke before the fire effect duration ends within the area that our 'water drop' is calculated to have hit the ground.

IMHO, this would be an even more fun aspect of flying which builds our skills as pilots (...and which would be 'academic' as well as entertaining for both the P3D and FSX platforms.) ;)

Has anyone been able to implement control over display and non-display of "fire" SimObjects via SimConnect in response to user-aircraft position, altitude, heading, velocity, angle of attack etc. to compute whether- and how much of- ones water drop coverage area may impact a 'fire' ...to toggle the 'fire' SimObject "off", display a "retardant-Red" ground texture, and a brief period of smoke from the area of extinguished blaze ?

It will be interesting to see how this FS technology evolves ! :)

Last edited:


Resource contributor
Actually yes. Without wanting to hijack this thread, this is possible within a mission. I never finished development of a firefighting mission, but I did some tests some time ago - I wanted to use the B747 Supertanker, the biggest firefighter ever, a pretty cool aircraft.
Hi Folks

Gary -
Funny/ironic that you should mention that. :(

Whilst several FSX mission's developers
have from FSX's initial release
created/released standalone fire-fighting missions.
AFAIK, none have yet integrated IRL/live fire generation.

All your above mission-related points
were all encompassed natively,
as one of the extensive, unappreciated, features,
in the much maligned 'MS Flight' product.

Burnable-object damage-models for buildings, etc.
were also incorporated in Flight's unreleased libraries.

those, along with Flight's other unreleased capabilities,
e.g. fully routed, and stackable, AI Traffic, (c/f FSX's great-circle, direct),
will eventually see the light of day
in the future 'DTG flight sim' product. :stirthepo

Thanks for the info on the .kmls Orion, I actually thought later "Gee, I wonder if I coulda just used the .kml?", lol. Dick Ludowise made a KML2BLN tool so I've been using that to automate the .bln at least but I'll try the .kml directly next time. Actually I still need the perimeter in SBuilder so I need a .bln, .sbx, or .shp anyway.

On the placement XML I added almost 4000 placements in about an hour this morning so I'm pretty well automated already and I've only got 10 days left to go and Aug will be complete so just another hour or so (unless this madness carries into Sept or something).

I was wondering if Active Fires discards points below a certain confidence level, and if so where did you draw the line? I tried everything 80 and above and my frames were in the toilet. I tried again at 90 or above and it was better but still like 17-18 FPS looking at the fires. Man I've never seen anything whack the frames like these fire effects but it seems if you strip everything below even 80 a lot of the key hotspots don't show up. Maybe this is a DX10 thing, do they kill your frames too?

Actually, there are almost daily .kmls available for these fire perimeters as there are the MODIS hot spots. I was thinking about a utility where you could select the date you wanted to check out the fires, then the utility would use gdal_rasterize on the appropriate .shp (or .kml) perimeters to generate blend masks. There could also be a supplied .tif and .inf for each fire so the utility could then call resample to compile all the burn perimeters on that particular date and move the .bgls to an active scenery area. The MODIS takes care of itself with effectParams when you set the sim to the correct date so you could fly over the fires one day, then select another date in the utility and fly over them again the next day to see the growth and the progression of the fire. I think I could do it with a batch file actually. Really I believe it would be Thursday night the 20th when it all went nuts and a lot of these fires doubled in size overnight so maybe just completed swap-able .bgls before and after that time would be enough?

At any rate I believe I could contribute date-specific fire perimeters and date-conditional FX placements for the month of Aug to the "Tanker Pilot 2015 project" if somebody wanted to pick up the ball and run with the mission/simconnect fire suppression end of it.

It would actually be pretty dang cool with a little research, maybe even attempt to contact some of these pilots and get first hand accounts, I'll bet they've got stories of some particular butt-puckering drops that'd make awesome missions. If not, the drops that saved Kettle Falls on the Renner Lake fire would be awesome. For that matter there's potential for some awesome helicopter missions as well. Mainly if a person had a real world scenario and story to go along with it I don't think whether the bomber actually puts out the fire in the sim or not matters, it would be cool to simulate the aircraft losing 25,000 lbs over the course of a couple seconds though, would that be possible?

I mean they broke a record for retardant drops this year, the Okanagan complex broke a record for largest fire in the state of Washington, if there was ever a year to do a fire/tanker simulation/mission addon... ;)
...it would be cool to simulate the aircraft losing 25,000 lbs over the course of a couple seconds though, would that be possible?
Probably, using Doug Dawson's fuel dump gauge.

You set the dump rate for Doug's gauge in your gauge so the only limiting factor would be is if Doug's gauge will accept that fast of a dump rate.

Hi Folks

'Fuel dump gauge' would be inappropriate.

The 'mission engine' and SimConnect both support
either immediate, or timed, payload decrements/increments.