Fires in the Western United States

Fires in the United States

14September 2006

Fires in the Western United States

Thick white smoke seeps through the valleys of the ranges of the Rocky Mountains that run through Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, in this photo-like image taken on 12 September 2006. At the time, firefighters were monitoring 29 wild fires in the three states, said the National Interagency Fire Center. Many of the fires were started by lightning, as suggested by the clusters of fires (represented by red dots) seen in this image. The image was taken in the early afternoon by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Most of the fires are burning in the deep-green, pine-covered mountains. Sage, scrub, and grass-covered desert is tan, while agricultural land creates a pattern of tiny bright green and gold dots.

12 September 2006

Between 1 January and 12 September 2006, a total of 3,502,102 hectares of land had burned in the United States, exceeding the totals for the same period of any other year since 2000. Many of the fires that burned in remote areas were simply monitored as part of a long-term land-management strategy, but those that threatened structures were actively combated. Some of the large fires shown here include the Columbia Complex, which had burned 41,700 hectares and was 80 percent contained on 12 September; the Elkhorn Complex, burned 350 hectares and was 15 percent contained; Payette Complex, burned 4,300 hectares and burning was being monitored; South Fork Complex, 16,800 hectares burned at 20 percent contained; Boundary Complex, 9,220 hectares burned and 5 percent contained; Red Mountain, 13,300 hectares burned and 30 percent contained; Rattlesnake Complex, 15,150 hectares burned and 30 percent contained.

Several other large fires burned in the western United States on 12 September. The Derby Fire in western Montana (just beyond the right edge of the image) had threatened homes and forced hundred of evacuations in early September. By 12 September, it had burned 84,000 hectares and was 70 percent contained, said the National Interagency Fire Center. The Day Fire was burning in Los Padres National Forest about 64 km north of Los Angeles, California. Its thick smoke temporarily closed Interstate 5 on 12 September.

Fires in Southern California

The Day Fire was burning dangerously close to Interstate 5 in Southern California on 12 September 2006, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image. The fire started on 4 September, apparently from a campfire gone out of control in Los Padres National Forest, said the Forest Service. Dry conditions on the ground and hot, dry weather combined to allow the fire to grow to 10,980 hectares by early 13 September. The fire was 25 percent contained at that time.

12 September 2006

The fire’s eastern front was moving towards Interstate 5, one of California’s busiest roads on the afternoon of 12 September. The Interstate corridor forms a pale tan line near the outer right edge of the fire in the top, photo-like image. The fire itself is outlined in red. It was producing thick plumes of smoke, which were blowing west away from the Interstate when the image was taken. Throughout the day, the Interstate closed when the flames approached or when shifting winds carried thick smoke over the road, decreasing visibility to unsafe levels, reported the Associated Press.

The lower image was made with infrared light instead of the visible light used to create the top image. Hot spots, perhaps areas of open flame, glow red-pink within the red fire boundaries. Smoke has a pale blue tint, and plant-covered land is bright green. Scorched land, where the fire had already burned, is brick red. Such images help fire and land managers assess the extent of the burn scar, the damage caused by wildfires.

The high-resolution image provided above has a spatial resolution of 250 meters per pixel.

(source: EarthObservatory).

Latest GOES-11 image:

This multispectral combined image was taken on 13 September 2006and shows the wildfire that has burned an estimated 7,880 hectares and is 35 km northwest of Santa Clarita in California. The wildfire is very close to Interstate 5, which was temporarily closed because of it.

(source: OSEI)

For more information see:

  • National Interagency Fire Center

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