standard Recent devastating forest fires in US

Some spectacular fires broke out across different parts of the US recently especially in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.  The Fontenelle blaze was so bad in Wyoming that firefighters were brought in from Alaska to help put out the hungry flames that have burned 150 square miles of the landscape.  The cause of the Fontenelle fire is not known according to the Incident Information website and it isn’t expected to be contained until 22 July, although a report today says that the fire is 75 percent contained.

In Colorado, it was reported that half of the US’s fire suppression equipment was being used there alone on 25 June.  The fires in Colorado even threatened the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado Springs; tens of thousands of people living there were given evacuation warnings.  The High Park fire started by lightning on 9 June.  It  consumed 83,205 acres (33,672 hectares), making it the second largest fire in Colorado’s history next to the Hayman fire in 2002 set by a forestry technician.

Here is a small collection of high-res images taken from remote satellites (mostly from NASA Earth Observatory) of some of the different fires that took place in the US.

Fontenelle fire three days after start. (NASA Earth Observatory)

Firefighters fighting the Fontenelle blaze. (

Burn scar from Fontenelle fire. (NASA Earth Observatory)

Fires in Colorado. (NASA Earth Observatory)

High Park fire, Colorado. (NASA Earth Observatory)

This is an image of the aerosols emitted by the forest fires.  The aerosols can be detected by remote sensing as they scatter UV light back into space that is received by the satellite(s).

Aerosols emitted by forest fires in US. (NASA Earth Observatory)

Finally, a highly informative presentation given by Dr Bruce D. Malamud on the spread of forest fires in the US that was given at IHRR.


  1. Thanks for the interesting summary photos. Are readers of the blog interested in discussing why so much human habitation, facilities and infrastructure is exposed to such fires? In debates about US wild fires and also about the epidemiology of recent outbreaks of Hanta virus, etc., the point has been made that Americans are spreading more and more into the urban-wild land interface, the exurbs, as it were, from where the telecommute or physically commute to jobs, or where they retire. Money from the sale of houses in California before the bubble burst fueled the ‘californication’ of wildlands in the high plains states. Natural reservoirs of various viruses then transmit these disease to humans and also the homes are lost in fires.

    Is there a different dynamic in Australia?


    What are the policy implications, in the face of climate change? What implications for the insurance industry? For DRR planning and practice in the small towns where these ‘lonely eagles’ and retirees have settled?

    1. Hiya Ben, many thanks for your comment as always. I think at least some readers are definitely concerned about the point(s) you make. I do recall the now second largest forest fire that took place in Colorado in 2002 when I was living there at the time. I think people are radically changing the landscapes by settling in some of these areas see this presentation from John Wainwright at Durham that talks about the impacts of large groups of people moving to the wild lands of the American southwest. But I think importantly it is also a matter of how people settle.

    2. Certainly there are parallels with parts of Australia. Many people, myself included, have sought a “tree change” and want to live in the bush, accepting of the dangers. However government straddles the fence of allowing building, and then removing the bush – the reason for being there.
      Something I personally struggle with, is that the fire regulations in Western Australia are driven by events in the East (Victoria, NSW), which in reality have as much in common with us as the tsunami in Japan.Why is it so hard to get the message across that the risk is so different in a continent as vast as Australia?
      Duncan Gardner (St John’s 1986)

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