Wildfires in Texas {Photo of the Day}

Since April 6, more than a million acres have burned throughout the state of the Texas, says the Texas Forest Service. This image, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite, shows conditions on April 15, 2011. Wind whips both smoke and dust southeast across the state. The fires that MODIS detected are marked in red.

The image illustrates one of the primary reasons fire danger is extremely high in Texas: strong winds. Warm temperatures, dry vegetation for fuel, and low humidity are also contributing to creating hazardous fire conditions. Normally a rainy month, March 2011 was the driest March on record, said the Texas Forest Service. Plentiful rains in 2010 spurred grass and shrubs to grow. The recent lack of rain, warm temperatures and low humidity has turned all of that vegetation into dry tinder, creating unprecedented fire danger.

As of April 18, 23 large wildfires were burning in Texas. Seven of the largest fires are labeled in the image. The image also shows two wildfires burning in northern Mexico. So far in 2011, the Texas has responded to 7,807 fires, which burned 1,528,714 acres of land and 244 structures, said Governor Rick Perry in an April 16 request to President Obama that the state be declared a major disaster.

Most of the seven fires shown in the image are larger than ten thousand acres, and many have threatened communities. As of April 18, the Texas Forest Service reported their status as follows:

Cannon Fire Complex Fire – Three fires collectively burned 63,427 acres, 80 percent contained;
Cooper Mountain Ranch Fire – 152,000 acres burned, 4 homes destroyed, 50 percent contained;
Jackson Ranch Fire – 2,200 acres burned, community evacuated, 50 percent contained;
PK West – 50,739 acres burned, 31 homes destroyed and 495 threatened, 25 percent contained;
Swenson Fire – 122,500 acres burned, 90 percent contained;
Wichita Complex Fire – 11,785 acres burned, 20 homes destroyed, Shepard Air Force Base and surrounding housing threatened, 90 percent contained;
Wildcat Fire – 103,772 acres burned, multiple communities evacuated, unknown containment.

Text and Image Courtesy of NASA Goddard

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