In what seemed like the blink of an eye, wildfires ignited in the paper-dry, drought-stricken vegetation of Southern California over the weekend of October 20, 2007, and exploded into massive infernos that forced hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their communities. Driven by Santa Ana winds, fires grew thousands of acres in just one to two days. The fires sped down from the mountains into the outskirts of coastal cities, including San Diego. Dozens of homes have burned to the ground, and at least one person has died, according to local news reports. Several of the fires were burning completely out of control as of October 22.
This image of the fires in California was captured at 1:55 p.m. U.S. Pacific Daylight Time on October 22, 2007. Places where MODIS detected actively burning fires are outlined in red. Thick streamers of smoke unfurl over the Pacific Ocean. The brownish plumes are clouds of dust. Fires northwest of Los Angeles seemed calmer at the time of this image than they were the previous day.
The drought in the Southwest throughout summer 2007 has been “extreme” according to the categories used by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Dry vegetation and Santa Ana winds, which can reach hurricane force as they race downslope from the deserts of the Great Basin and through narrow mountain passes, are often a devastating combination in Southern California. According to the Incident Management Situation Report from the National Interagency Fire Center for October 22, Santa Ana winds were expected to continue through Wednesday.
For more information about individual fires in Southern California, visit the Fire Information page of the National Interagency Fire Center Website.
You can download a 250-meter-resolution KMZ file of the fires suitable for use with Google Earth.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering MODIS Direct Broadcast facility.