Nighttime photo of the Rim Fire from space

Rim Fire, August 23, 2013 as seen from Suomi NPP satellite
Rim Fire, August 23, 2013 as seen from Suomi NPP satellite
Rim Fire, August 23-26, 2013
Rim Fire, as seen from Suomi NPP satellite August 23-26, 2013, showing the boundary of Yosemite National Park.

A satellite with extraordinary light-sensing capabilities recently photographed the Rim Fire at night. The image above was captured by NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite on August 23 as the fire burned into Yosemite National Park in California. That was a very active time period for the fire, as it was growing rapidly.

It is common to see satellite data showing heat generated by wildfires, but this is the first image we have seen of visible light created by a fire at night. In this photo, the smoke from the fire is also detected.

The satellite, launched in October 2011, has a new imaging instrument with a “day-night band” that can detect natural and man-made light with unprecedented resolution and clarity — six times better spatial resolution and 250 times better resolution of lighting levels than previous instruments.

Our main article about the Rim Fire is HERE, and is updated daily with maps and current information.

For comparison with the satellite photo, below is a map of the Rim Fire at 9 p.m. August 22.

Map of Rim fire at 9 p.m.  PDT, August 22, 2013
Map of the Rim fire. The red line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. PDT, August 22, 2013. The pink line was the perimeter about 24 hours previously. The boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green.

California: Rim Fire at Yosemite NP

(UPDATE at 9:45 a.m. PDT, September 10, 2012)

Horseshoe Meadows Hotshots Rim Fire
A crewmember of the Horseshoe Meadows Hotshots, on the Rim Fire, September 2, 2013. USFS Photo by Mike McMillan.

Firefighters have made some progress on the Rim Fire since our last update on September 4. As you can see in the map below, the fire has grown very little in the last six days, and most of the change in the fire perimeter is most likely a result of firefighters burning out the vegetation ahead of the fire.

Map of Rim Fire
Map of the Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 1 a.m. PDT, September 10, 2013. The pink line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. PDT, September 3, 2013. The western boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

The fire has burned 254,685 acres and the incident commander is calling it 80 percent contained. Over 3,000 personnel are assigned to the incident, down from more than 5,000 a week or so ago. Over the last 24 days since it started, the costs for suppressing the fire has grown to $100.4 million.

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(UPDATE at 6:50 a.m. PDT, September 4, 2013)

Rim Fire burnout
Rim Fire burnout, September 1, 2013. Photo by Mike McMillan.

As shown in the map below, the spread of the Rim Fire has slowed considerably over the last several days. Most of the acreage increases are a result of burnout operations out ahead of the fire, sometimes miles from the fire’s edge, in order to remove the fuel, eventually stopping the spread. The west and southwest sides of the fire have been very quiet for a few days. The only significant movement of the fire which may not be related to burnouts are on the east side, with most of it being in the Cherry Lake area. On the southeast flank firefighters have selected Highway 120/Tioga Road as their fireline and are burning out along the north side.

The fire has burned 237,341 acres and the incident commander is calling it 80 percent contained. Another 3,000 acres and it becomes the third largest fire in California history.

Map of Rim Fire
Map of Rim Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 9 p.m. PDT, September 3, 2013. The pink line was the perimeter about 48 hours before. The red squares represent heat detected by a satellite at 10:40 p.m. PDT September 3, 2013. The boundary of Yosemite National Park is shown in green. (click to enlarge)

The strategy and tactics employed by the firefighters appear to be working. Instead of choosing the NEXT ridge for a fireline or burnout, they are selecting the BEST ridge, or sometimes a road, as the place to make their stand. This gives them enough time to execute what can be a miles-long burnout operation, and allows them some flexibility to conduct it at a time when the weather is favorable. These tactics have been used successfully on some very large fires on the Los Padres National Forest, including the Whitewater-Baldy, Basin Complex, Indians, Iron Alps, and Zaca fires.

There are currently no mandatory or advisory evacuation orders effective in Mariposa County. The evacuation advisory has been lifted for Ponderosa Hills and areas east, along the south side of Highway 108 up to Pinecrest. Highway 120 at the Yosemite National Park boundary west to Buck Meadows remains under evacuation.

Briefing at Rim Fire
Briefing at Rim Fire, September 2, 2013. Photo by Mike McMillan.

 

 

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