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Rapid, Scalable Outdoor and Indoor Machine Learning-Based Mapping of Fire Department Pre-Plans

Western Fire Chiefs Association logo

Western Fire Chief Association Inc.


In August 2022, the Western Fire Chief Association (WFCA) was awarded more than $1M for the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program 2022 (PSIAP-2022) funding opportunity. 

WFCA’s project will test and validate the application of the GeoCam Visual Mapping System to prove its feasibility to automate city-scale fire pre-plan maps across complex outdoor and indoor environments. They will develop a machine-learning-based product and service that will provide geo-located imagery outdoors and indoors, supporting remote and frequent virtual training for department members and emergency response preplans on critical structures within a city. It will also enable participating departments to obtain new information about structural changes on a regular basis to improve on-demand pre-planning.

Meet the team

WFCA’s team is made of the following key personnel:

  • Brent VanKeulen, Principle Investigator and Deputy Director of WFCA, has more than twenty-seven years of experience in leadership and management in the public sector. He was a Division Chief at Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (TVF&R), the largest fire and rescue department in Oregon. Chief VanKeulen's experience with R&D work and bridging the gap between public safety and technology advancement started during his time at TVF&R.
  • David Van Ballegooijen, Project Coordinator, has served as WFCA Chief Operating Officer for over six years. He is the point person for staff operations and oversight of activities with partnering organizations. Mr. Van Ballegooijen also serves as the Project Coordinator of the ‘Fire Data Lab’ project, which provides public safety agencies access to data repositories for analytics that can drive strategic decision-making processes. Recently he was part of a team that won first place in the NIST 2020 CHARIoT Challenge AR interface track.
  • Myles Sutherland, Co-founder and CEO of GeoCam, focuses on leading the GeoCam team in building the world’s first seamless aerial, street, and indoor Visual Mapping system. He manages the company operations, sales, marketing, and product development. He was previously Emerging Business Group Manager at Esri, focused on supporting startups in exploring use of geography within their Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), web, and mobile products.
  • Luke Reid, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of GeoCam. He leads all technology and machine learning initiatives for the company.  Prior to GeoCam, Mr. Reid was the founder of Areograph, an image processing software for reconstructing 3D scenes.
  • Chris Rogers, Consultant, has over 30 years of fire service experience. In addition, he is a recognized expert in using GIS for building mapping and pre-incident planning. Chris Rogers has been the technical lead for the NAPSG Map Symbology workgroup for the past 12 years, is a subject matter expert for NIST for a 3D Building Mapping Workgroup and works as a consultant to Intterra.  

Project overview

The lack of accurate localization and mapping for emergency situations, such as fires, is a well-known issue; however, there are limited solutions. WFCA is proposing a pre-planning camera-based product that will help fire departments know the building layouts, location of critical objects supporting their effective response, and potential hazards in advance of an emergency. The system will provide geo-located imagery outdoors and indoors, supporting remote and frequent virtual training for department members on critical structures within a city. It will also enable the department to obtain new information about structural changes on a regular basis to help improve on-demand pre-planning.

The objective of this project is to test and validate the application of the GeoCam Visual Mapping System for automating fire pre-plan maps. WFCA intends to focus on three interrelated problems that fire departments often struggle with:

  1. Access to adequate technology to rapidly and efficiently collect data outside and inside buildings for fire department staff to use on-demand and with ease. 
  2. Access to information systems and processes to handle pre-plan data. These systems should be accessible for staff to use remotely and in real-time, when responding to an incident.
  3. Development of training procedures on pre-plan map data that provide a comprehensive approach and ensure all staff members are informed and aware of what they may encounter when supporting an incident.

Potential impacts of the project

The proposed project offers significant impact to the public safety community, commercial building owners/operators, and the public. The WFCA and GeoCam will have a well-tested service template available as a commercial offering to any fire department, local government, and commercial company. This service will allow said agencies and their safety/security teams to improve mapping, fire pre-planning, and training, promoting safer practices for first responders and the communities they serve. The proposed project will also generate a much-needed fire object-identification library that will be open to the public and used for numerous machine learning-based projects to better the technology available to first responders.

Created August 10, 2022, Updated September 21, 2022