News Stories

Roylance Aids Northern California Fires Aftermath with GIS Expertise

Published May 15, 2018

Wilmington District Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analyst Spencer Roylance helped provide invaluable assistance to USACE commanders and leaders during his deployment in mid-January to Northern California to support the Wildfire Debris Removal Mission. 

   As the Field GIS Analyst at the Sonoma Recovery Field Office (RFO) in Rohnert Park, he produced detailed maps to assist mission specialists and managers track the status of each parcel.  Every parcel was grouped into a Focus Area or Zone for tracking, and the statistics changed every day.  Progress was recorded on the tracker right next to the maps.

   “I deployed because there was a need for GIS personnel,” Roylance said.  “I had a choice between Puerto Rico and California, and I chose California. This was my first deployment, but I've worked hurricane missions locally several times.”

   Roylance said that he did not really know what to expect from the deployment being the first time, but he said that he definitely had a sense of accomplishment.  He enjoyed the world famous scenery of Napa and Sonoma County, but felt enormous empathy for those who lost lives and property.  He filled a specific niche on a dedicated team that was focused on helping the victims of the fires resume with their lives.  

   “Being able to bring my skillsets to a very focused mission of debris removal, map out the progress, and visually represent that on a map product for the Mission Manager and Debris Mission Commander was really fulfilling,” he explained.  “I also brought in current satellite imagery to assist in quality assurance of the debris status.  Being able to bring in an image of the fire recovery areas from the previous day helped the mission specialist verify the parcel status in the tracking database.”

     Although Roylance played a small but significant role in the mission, he said that he caught the attention of RFO Commander and South Pacific Division Deputy Commander Col. Eric McFadden who “was quite impressed that I could task satellite images he even highlighted the point when Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations Maj. Gen. Donald Jackson, Jr. came through the RFO.” 

   Roylance said that the deployment broadened his view of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ role during emergency management. After adding his experience during a deployment on the other side of the country he’s entertaining the idea of possibly deploying again.