EarthView–Landsat 8 Shows Burn Extent, Active Fire at Fort McMurray

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This week’s EarthView is of the Fort McMurray wildfire again, this time showing the extent of the wildfire...

EarthViews is a continuing series in which we share a USGS Image of the Week featuring the USGS/NASA Landsat program. From the artistry of Earth imagery to natural and human-caused land change over time, check back every Friday to finish your week with a visual flourish!

Image shows a post with side-by-side satellite images of the Fort McMurray Wildfire
Eleven days after a wildfire first sparked south of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, Landsat 8's Operational Land Imager (OLI) captured imagery of one of the most destructive infernos in Canadian history.

The EarthView: Landsat 8 Shows Burn Extent, Active Fire at Fort McMurray

Description:

Eleven days after a wildfire first sparked south of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, Landsat 8's Operational Land Imager (OLI) captured imagery of one of the most destructive infernos in Canadian history. The fire has burned an area approaching 600,000 acres.

The May 12, 2016, false-color image relies on shortwave infrared, near infrared, and red light (OLI bands 7-5-4) to show hazy blue smoke, bright orange active burning spots, and a reddish-brown burn scar that surrounds Fort McMurray as it extends east and south toward the Saskatchewan border. It is a stark contrast from the pre-fire image acquired by Landsat 8 on October 17, 2015.

Alberta officials report that nearly 10 percent of Fort McMurray was destroyed by the fire, which started May 1 south of the city. Hot weather, dry vegetation, and strong winds spread the fire quickly. The cause has yet to be determined.

So far, over 2,400 structures have been destroyed in and around Fort McMurray. At least another 500 were damaged in the city, and many of the structures still standing suffered smoke damage.

Staff from the U.S. Geological Survey are assisting the Provincial Operations Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, by providing Landsat imagery that shows the fire's progress, and post-fire burn severity assessments that are expected to provide information of value during post-fire mitigation activities.

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