The Cerro Grande Fire near Los Alamos, New Mexico, consumed about 47,650 acres and destroyed more than 200 buildings during the month of May 2000. This false-color Landsat 7 image shows much of the damage, even though some of the burn scar (red) is obscured by clouds. This scene covers the same area as the Landsat 7 image from May 9, 2000, previously displayed on the Earth Observatory. (The colors of this image are slightly different due to the very bright clouds.)
The extensive damage to the town of Los Alamos (beneath the bright green golf course in the center of the image) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (near the curving road at bottom center) is clearly shown.
Note the surviving vegetation at the bottom of the steep ravines that run from left to right across the image. High winds caused the fire to jump the ravines without descending into them.
Area residents may be vulnerable to mudslides during the rainy season that begins in July. Plants on the hillsides normally hold soil in place and slow water runoff, but after a fire water runs quickly downslope and can erode the bare slopes.
Landsat 7 data are archived and available from EDC.
Image by Rob Simmon, Earth Observatory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Data courtesy Ron Beck, EROS Data Center (EDC)