Eight major wildfires burned through forests and grasslands in the Pacific Northwest in late-July 2013, threatening homes and forcing road closings and evacuations. Many parts of Washington and Oregon faced extreme fire threats, as strong thunderstorms lined up to hit parched forests and grasslands with lightning.
On July 28, 2013, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured these images of the Mile Marker 28 fire in the Simcoe Mountains northeast of Goldendale, Washington. Smoke blew east toward Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland. The lower image shows a closer view of smoke billowing up from the most active part of the fire.
Ignited on July 24, 2013, the fire charred more than 22,000 acres (8,900 hectares) by July 30, when more than 1,000 firefighters achieved 40 percent containment. The blaze forced the evacuation of dozens of homes and the closure of US Highway 97.
Through July 25, 450 wildfires had burned 10,220 acres (4,136 hectares) in Washington, while Oregon saw 603 fires that burned 63,135 acres (25,549 hectares). In all, 2.3 million acres burned across the United States by late-July, below the national average. Over the past ten years, an average of 4.2 million acres had burned in the United States by the end of each July.
While coastal and western Washington receive heavy rain throughout the year, the rain shadow caused by the Cascades leaves central Washington quite dry. The mountains force moist air from the Pacific to rise, causing it to cool and condense into rain or snow on the windward side of the Cascades. So little moisture is left by the time air passes over the Cascades, that the area around Mile Marker 28 typically receives just 8 inches (20 centimeters) of precipitation per year.
- Inciweb (2013, July 30) Mile 28 Marker Fire. Accessed July 30, 2013.
- National Interagency Fire Center (2013, July 30) Year-to-date Statistics. Accessed July 30, 2013.
- Tri-City Herald (2013, July 28) Goldendale wildfire up to nearly 27 square miles. Accessed July 30, 2013.
- The Oregonian (2013, July 30) Goldendale wildfire up to nearly 27 square miles. Accessed July 30, 2013.
- NASA Earth Observatory (2012, September 23) Oregon Rain Shadow.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Adam Voiland