Following its worst fire season (2013) in sixty years, Oregon had an active start to 2014. In early June, the Oregon Department of Forestry set June 9 as the start of the 2014 season, three weeks earlier than average. The state is in a widespread, persistent drought that has provided ample fuel for new fires this week.
The fast-growing Two Bulls Fire broke out northwest of Bend, Oregon, on June 7, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image on June 8 at 12:40 p.m. local time. The red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fires.
Snow-covered peaks, part of the Cascade Range, are visible west of the fire. Smoke from the blaze streamed over Bend, home to about 170,000 people. The fire degraded air quality over Bend, threatened water supplies, and forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.
Dry conditions and high winds have exacerbated the blaze. All of Deschutes County was in the midst of either moderate or severe drought when the fire started, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Firefighters battling the blaze noted: “Although it’s early June, the large logs and other downed woody debris are as dry as if it was July.”
More than 700 firefighters were on the scene as of June 9. Many were building containment lines to the south and east to prevent the fire from spreading toward Bend. Crews were also working to to protect drinking water supplies to the west. Air tankers and helicopters were also being used to drop flame retardant and water on the fire. The lower image, taken from a 337 Skymaster airplane, shows an MD-87 air tanker dropping retardant on June 7, 2014.
As of June 9, the fire had burned more than 6,000 acres (2,400 hectares).
NASA image courtesy LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Adam Voiland. Photograph taken by Jim Hansen (Central Oregon Fire Management Service) from a 337 Skymaster airplane.