The Difference of a Day
What a difference a day makes. These two natural color images both captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on the Aqua satellite show the Idaho wildfires one day apart. On September 8, 2012, the top image shows some of the fires currently burning in Idaho.
The Mustang Complex Fire which was started by a lightning strike over six weeks ago on the weekend of July 28-29 is currently only 16% contained and over 261,000 acres have been affected. Five of the fires, the Mustang, Broomtail, Roan, Cayuse and East Butte have burned together. The Lost Packer Fire continues to burn and increase in size. Due to steep and rocky terrain, containment of the fire will be difficult in the absence of substantial precipitation. Firefighters continue to be challenged by exceptionally dry fuels, rugged terrain, and frequent adverse fire weather conditions. The current estimation for containment of the fire is September 30, 2012.
The McGuire Complex Fire (which contains the former Bagley wildfire) consists of the McGuire and Herman wildfires. There is very poor access to the fire areas with limited safety zones for firefighters. This complex has also been active since July 27 when a lightning strike started the fire. This complex includes over 18,000 affected acres and is currently about 5% contained. Smoke from both of these large, long burning fires streams to the northeast in both images. These two fires look relatively the same in both images. The only difference being the mixing of clouds and smoke on September 8.
The striking difference comes from comparing the Sheep Fire and the Wesley Fire on the two days of images. The Sheep Fire shows significant smoke pouring out of the wildfire on September 9 and the Wesley fire is clearly visible in this image as well. In the image from September 8 the Sheep Fire is just a small red circle, denoting a fire, with barely any smoke. And where is the Wesley Fire on the image for September 8? It didn't exist. A lightning storm in the early morning hours of September 9 caused the Wesley Fire outbreak. That storm actually ignited nearly two dozen small wildfires. The Wesley Fire is now 100 acres and the dry winds are causing that fire to grow. The Sheep Fire which ignited on September 6 was relatively small in the image from September 8, but had grown significantly in the image taken on September 9. Currently the Sheep Fire is almost 14,000 acres and is 10% contained. According to Inciweb.org, the Sheep Fire made significant growth between last night (Sept. 8) and today (Sept. 9). The Wesley Fire is currently 150 acres and is burning in steep mountaintop terrain which is difficult to reach. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red.
For the larger image of the September 8 fires click the date link. The September 9 full image is found by clicking on the "full image" to the right.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner with information from inciweb.org