Rattlesnake Fire, Arizona

May 11, 2018

The 2018 fire season is already active in the western United States. One of the larger wildfires so far is the Rattlesnake Fire. The blaze ignited on April 11 and has scorched over 26,000 acres on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, San Carlos Indian Reservation, and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in eastern Arizona.

The Landsat 8 image acquired on April 15 shows the fire emerging from the White Mountains. The image from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2B satellite shows active burning on the south side of the burned area on April 25. By May 1, when Landsat 8 acquired data over the area again, the fire was mostly contained.

Landsat 8’s shortwave infrared (SWIR) and near-infrared (NIR) bands combine to clearly show the distinction between burned and unburned vegetation and the active fire line expanding over time. The SWIR band is sensitive to soil and ash in burned areas, while the NIR band is sensitive to healthy vegetation. The complementary imagery from Sentinel can be used along with Landsat to monitor the greenness or recovery of vegetation after the burn.

Sources: Landsat 8 / Sentinel-2B