Wildfires continued to burn across the western United States through August, 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on August 29.
Although clouds cover much of the landscape, over 50 fires can be seen burning in the clear-sky areas across nine states. Each actively burning area is marked in red, which indicates a “hot spot” where the MODIS thermal sensors detected temperatures higher than background. When combined with smoke, such areas are definitive for actively burning fires.
The majority of the wildfires burn in the forests of Idaho, while large fires in northwestern Wyoming are producing heavy smoke plumes which are driven strongly eastward by heavy winds. Smoke in southern Oregon blows more southerly, while the northern California fires spread smoke locally. The clouds likely were carrying rains, which help dampen fires, but thunderstorms are a mixed blessing – they also bring strong winds which encourage fire spread, and the accompanying lightning may ignite new blaze.
By August 29, the National Interagency Fire Center reported that 28 large fires remained active, with 15,800 personnel working to suppress those fires. The number of acres burned was reported as 696,366. The number of large fires by state was: 8 in California, 5 in Idaho, 6 in Montana, 5 in Oregon, 2 in Washington, 1 in Utah and 1 in Wyoming. The number of large fires contained this year was 293. A “large” fire is defined as a wildfire of 100 acres or more occurring in timber or a wildfire of 300 acres or more occurring in grass/sage. MODIS images detect large fires, but also can detect fires much smaller than this designation.