Western Wildfires

Western Wildfires
Western Wildfires

Wildfires raged across Colorado earlier this summer. Now California, Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon are feeling the heat. On August 14, 2012, numerous fires blazed across the four western states, burning through everything from sagebrush to grass to beetle-killed lodgepole pine forests.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of the fires on Aug 11, 2012. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fires.

Three large fires burned through coniferous forests in northern California: the Reading fire in Lassen Volcanic National Park, the Chips fire in Plumas National Forest, and the Fort Complex fire in Klamath National Forest. The largest of the three (Chips) had consumed 57 square miles (148 square kilometers) and was 12 percent contained by August 14. The Reading fire had consumed 37 square miles and was 15 percent contained, whereas the Fort Complex Fire had burned 3 square miles and was 10 percent contained. All three were ignited by lightning. In Oregon, lightning also sparked the Barry Point fire, which had burned 68 square miles.

In northern Nevada, the Holloway, Hansen, and Willow fires burned through grass, brush, and sagebrush. The Holloway fire was the largest and had burned 676 square miles by August 14. The Willow and Hanson fires had burned 67 square miles and 20 square miles respectively. All three were ignited by lightning on August 5.

In Idaho, the Halstead fire burned through stands of beetle-killed lodgepole pines in Salmon-Challis National Forest. It had consumed 81 square miles. To the south, the Trinity Ridge fire had burned about 58 square miles. Lightning ignited the Halstead fire on July 27, whereas human activity started the Trinity Ridge fire.

According to statistics compiled by the National Interagency Fire Center, a total of 9,400 square miles had burned in the United States through August 14. That was above the ten-year average for that date, which was 7,750 square miles.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response. Caption by Adam Voiland.

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