Photo: Google

With this week's wildfires, Google is using the power of two U.S. satellites to provide a clearer and more quickly updated view of how the blazes are spreading.

Why it matters: Official information can often be hard to find and presented in less than straightforward ways, especially for those trying to quickly assess their situation in an emergency.

What's new: Google is drawing on both near-infrared and visible spectrum images to create a map of the Kincade Fire in Northern California, which can be updated every 5-20 minutes.

It's then combining the map with other official information as part of its official page on the fire.

History lesson: Google has offered crisis response informally since at least 2005, with efforts growing and becoming more formalized over the years. Last year it began testing a flood prediction tool for India.

What's next: Google hopes to expand beyond the U.S. to offer similar alerts in other countries.

"We think natural disasters are only going to get bigger as climate change takes hold," said Pete Giencke, a product manager for Google search.

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