Fires in Northeast China

Firesin NortheastChina

30 May 2006

More than 20,000 firefighters are still combating several large forest fires in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The most serious incident is a forest fire in Galashan, Nenjiang County, near Heilongjiang’s city of Heihe. It is still burning 10 days after it started on 21 May 2006. The total length of the fire has reached 570 kilometres, while an area of more than 15,000 ha has been burnt. More than 5,000 firefighters and five helicopters were tackling the fire, according the State Forestry Administration (SFA). Meanwhile, forest fires in Kanduhe, which is also in Nenjiang County, and Mianduhe in Inner Mongolia, were also blazing. They started on 22 and 25 May 2006 respectively. The total number of firefighters involved in the three operations has exceeded 20,000.

The fire at the Xirite Forest resurged in the middle range of the Da Hinggan Ling Mountains in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and was not yet under control by Tuesday morning, 30 May 2006. The blaze re-entered the area from the nearby Sangenhe Forest between Mianduhe and Urqihan towns on Monday afternoon, where a fire was reported last week. The previous fire, which entered Xirite in the evening of last Friday, was brought under control by early Monday morning. Difficult access, dry and windy weather, and poor telecom connections made it hard to prevent the fire from resurging in Xirite. Also withered branches and leaves contributed to the fire.

The dry weather and high temperatures coupled with strong winds have put the vast forested areas in northern China at great risk. Heilongjiang Province saw a 70 % decrease of rainfall in May compared with the same period in previous years. A mild drought set in parts of Northeastern China during the first five months of 2006. Dry weather and warmer-than-average temperatures in February, March, and much of April left soil dry. Meteorologists forecasted strong winds and no rainfall for the next three days. Showers may arrive between 2 and 4 June 2006.

The effect of the dry weather on the vegetation is apparent in this vegetation anomaly (difference from normal) image. The image was created from data taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite between 23 April and 8 May 2006, and it shows the relative health of plants in 2006 compared to the average for 2000-2005. Wide pockets of brown indicate regions where plants were growing more slowly than average, while brushes of green show more growth than average. The cream-colored background reveals where plants were growing normally, and regions that were cloud-covered during the entire sixteen-day period are gray.

On 30 May 2006, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of numerous fires (marked in red) billowing thick smoke.
From the same day, a fire occurence map was produced by the Sukachev Institute of Forest, Krasnoyarsk, on the base of satellite data (classification by the NOAA AVHRR).It shows the fire location (by latitude and longitude) and the area affected by fire (red signature, size in ha). The red arrow at each fire location points to the nearest populated place.

30 May 2006
(Image courtesy MODIS)

30 May 2006
(Image courtesy Sukachev Institute of Forest)

These images of the region were captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite during overpasses on the 25, 27 and 30 May 2006 and were selected to show the development of the fire.

(Image courtesy MODIS)

25 May 2006

27 May 2006

30 May 2006

Shortwave- and near-infrared observations from MODIS have been added to these images to make burn scars (magenta) stand out better from vegetation (bright green) and naturally bare or thinly vegetated ground (pale pink or tan). Active fires are marked in red and at the northwestern perimeter of the fire, a small area of bright pink indicates areas that were actively flaming at the time of the overpass.

The high-resolution images provided above have a spatial resolution of 500 meters per pixel.

Some visual impressions from the fires:

For more details on fire in China´s Northeast:

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