The Rim Fire, a huge inferno which has consumed 111 buildings, including 31 homes and scorched nearly 288 square miles of California brush, oak and pine forest, is burning its way into the history books – on August 27, it was reported to be the seventh-largest fire in state history.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite flew over the fire on August 22 and captured this true-color image of the blaze. Although it was less than a week old, the size of the red hotspot, which marks where MODIS thermal bands detected high temperatures associate with fire, is already remarkable. A heavy plume of gray smoke blows northward, evidence of strong winds fueling the blaze.
The Rim Fire ignited on August 17, about 3:15 in the afternoon, local time, and the cause is currently under investigation. It is burning primarily in the Stanislaus National Forest, but has also burned over 21,000 acres in Yosemite National Park, south of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. An estimated 4,500 structures are threatened, and structure defense is a primary goal of the 4,081 personnel working to contain and suppress the fire. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the area south of Highway 120 and north of Old Yosemite Road.
Although Inciweb reports the fire at 20% contained on August 27, the fire behavior is listed as “extreme”, with “extreme” growth potential. The terrain strongly limits ground crews, and aircraft have been, and will continue to be, critical for containment efforts. At that time, 184,481 acres had been scorched already – an area almost ¼ the size of the state of Rhode Island.
In this image, a second fire can be seen north of the Rim Fire. This is the American Fire, which began on August 10 and has burned 25,520 acres as of August 27. It is 92% contained, with full containment expected on August 29. The cause is under investigation.