Wildfires are doing severe damage in a number of western U.S. states. Extremely dry conditions, stiff winds, unusually warm weather, and trees killed by pine bark beetle outbreaks have created a situation in which major fires thrive. 52 active fires in a number of states have destroyed over 900,000 acres. Since the beginning of 2012, 27,000 fires have destroyed 1.9 million acres.
The immediate impact is loss of property and lives. Longer term, the exposed soil profiles, especially in steep-sloped regions, will affect erosion, make the areas vulnerable to potential flooding, and affect water quality.
Landsat satellite data are being used to record the rate of burning, extent of damage, and the results of efforts to control the burns. The data will be used by resource managers to monitor regrowth and rehabilitation after the fires are controlled.
The above examples illustrate the effects of fires in Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.