Bush and Forest Fires inCentral African Republic and 
Democratic Republic of Congo

21 January 2002

Near-real time satellite images
Operational Significant Event Imagery (OSEI)
The following significant events were identified by Satellite Analysis Branch meteorologists and reviewed by the OSEI support team of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

click to enlarge (335 KB)

NESDIS/OSEI NOAA-12 POES AVHRR satellite images, 17 January 2002.
A large heat signature (red) is visible near the border of Congo and Rwanda from the eruption of Nyiragongo volcano. Fires burned out of control Friday after the volcano
eruption sent 100-foot-wide rivers of lava flowing through Goma, Congo, forcing as many as 500,000 to flee to Rwanda. This information is from the Associated Press.
(Source: OSEI/NOAA)

click here to enlarge

Fig.1. This image shows fires burning in the Central African  Republic (CAR).
The image was acquired by the Moderate- resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)
sensor on 17  January 2002 at 08:50 UTC.
Source:  Image search support at:

click here to enlarge

Fig.2. A false colour section of Fig.1 shows the smoke plume from  the eruption
of volcanoe Nyiragongo near the city of Goma  (01:40°S, 29:25°E),
Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the  border to Rwanda.
The image was acquired by the Moderate- resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)
sensor on 17  January 2002 at 08:50 UTC.
Source:  Image search support at:

Fire is used extensively across RCA. There are three main activities.

  • Large scale poaching: This has its greatest impact in the north and north east of the country. The open savannahs of the Northeast, on the Sudan border, see large fire fronts (50 km) every year, moving southwest as the season progresses. The fires start on the frontier with Sudan in November and move southwest, arriving at Bakouma in February. These are thought to be due to large scale poaching activities. A similar process occurs in the north of the country on the frontier with Chad. Fires of several km’s size advance down towards the Massif des Bongo during November, December, and January. This area is comprised of several national parks. The fires are smaller than those found in the Northwest as the landscape is more fragmented with rivers and woodlands. The Plateau of Ouadda, south of the Massif, sees many large hunting fires later in the season (January to March). This remnant forest area is a home to bush game.

  • Pasture management: Fires are used to stimulate re-growth for cattle in the dry season. This occurs around the town of Bambari (central RCA) and on the routes from Northwest RCA (a livestock breeding area) to the markets in the south. The herdsmen light fires along the route both to stimulate regrowth and to facilitate passage. These fires tend to be at least five km from the road network. The fires are small in size and start in December and continue until March.

  • Agricultural fires: These small fires occur across the country in December and January, but are predominantly close to the road network, being lit to prepare the fields for agriculture. At the same time, farmers burn the area around their crops and villages earlier in the season to avoid accidental fires caused by the passage of pastoralists. The conflict between the two groups, pastoralists and villagers, is a well-known one.

For background information on the fire situation in Central African Republic (CAR): See IFFN country report at:

For more information on the Nyiragongo volcanoe eruption: See news from Planet Ark at:

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