Since 2003, the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC) have jointly provided satellite-derived burn severity mapping products to meet the requirements of DOI and USFS Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) teams. BAER teams are mandated to quickly (within 2 weeks) evaluate the effects of wildland fires and develop mitigation plans to safeguard valuable natural resources, protect human life and property, and promote landscape recovery. Derived from Landsat images, the soil burn severity map is a major resource used by the BAER teams to develop post-fire hazard mitigation prescriptions. Additionally, burn severity maps are provided to USGS Landslide Hazards staff to support ongoing debris flow modeling and prediction analyses associated with wildland fires.
The USGS EROS rapidly processes Landsat and other satellite imagery enabling the timely generation of map products for large wildland fires on DOI-managed lands, generally less than 2 days after fire containment. These map products allow the BAER teams to better understand the patterns of burn severity and make more precise mitigation recommendations. Since 2003 and through the 2016 fire season, the USGS and USFS have mapped 1,759 wildfires representing 48.8 million burned acres in support of BAER and local DOI and USFS land managers.
In 2017, wildland fire activity on DOI-managed lands is expected to be extensive. By early June, the USGS EROS had responded to seven DOI requests for burn area mapping support including the large 152,515-acre West Mims fire located in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (Georgia/Florida).
Landsat 8 post-fire image (May 16, 2017; left) and preliminary soil burn severity map (May 19, 2017; right) for the May 2017 West Mims fire in Georgia/Florida’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The fire burned over 152,000 acres. Within the post-fire image, the burn scar is medium to bright red while vegetation is various shades of green. Within the burn severity map, dark green is non-burn, light blue is low severity, yellow is moderate severity, and red is high severity. The burn perimeter is designated by a black polygon in both images. Each image covers an area 34 miles (N-S) by 41 miles (E-W).