The Bear Creek Fire in Texas started on September 4, 2011, and by September 12, it had burned 40,548 acres (16,409 hectares), according to the Incident Information System. Although the fire was 80 percent contained, Bear Creek retained a high potential for growth.
The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured these images on September 9, 2011. The top image is natural color and resembles an aerial photo. The bottom image is made from a combination of shortwave infrared and visible light to better distinguish between surviving vegetation (green) and burn scars (red to orange).
These images show that the fire has burned a substantial area, but not uniformly. Paths of unburned vegetation divide irregularly shaped burn scars—especially visible in the false-color image. Lingering smoke is more easily seen in the natural-color image.
As firefighters continued battling the Bear Creek Fire, evacuated residents waited at Red Cross shelters. Authorities estimated that the Northeast Texas Fires Complex, which includes the Bear Creek Fire, would be contained by September 14.
Drought in the state of Texas provided plentiful fuel for fires in late summer 2011. In early September, Tropical Storm Lee, which drenched the U.S. Southeast, brought strong winds to Texas, worsening the fires.
NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Michon Scott.