Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has received a 2017 Philip Meyer Journalism Award, which honors the best journalism using social research and data journalism methods.

The award from Investigative Reporters and Editors recognizes How Fire Feeds, an interactive map and story that shows the progression of a trio of wildfires that swept through one Northern California county in 2015, killing four people and charring thousands of homes. The fires were fueled by vegetation that grew unchecked for decades and was primed by years of drought. The fires spread faster than computer models could predict and with such a ferocity that emergency responders could focus only on evacuating people from harm’s way.

The detailed story of these three fires focused on the weather and environmental conditions that contributed to their severity. It was illustrated through satellite imagery and geospatial data obtained from multiple government sources, providing added context and precision to our understanding of these massive fires.

The story was produced by Reveal’s Eric Sagara, Scott Pham and Sinduja Rangarajan. Julia Smith, design lead with the Institute for Nonprofit News and a former Knight-Mozilla OpenNews fellow with Reveal, also contributed to the project. The story was awarded second place.

The awards, which will be presented at the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting conference in March, honor Philip Meyer, often considered the father of data journalism. Meyer is a professor emeritus and former Knight Chair of Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He wrote “Precision Journalism,” the seminal 1972 book that inspired many to use social science methods to do better journalism.

The first place winner is “Doctors & Sex Abuse” from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the third place winner is “The Tennis Racket” by BuzzFeed News and the BBC.

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