EarthView–Wildfires Ravage Central, South-Central Chile

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Landsat gives us a view of one of the worst wildfires in Chile's history.

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 satellite view of wildfire damage in Chile
In this view of the same area, taken February 2, 2017, Landsat 8 shows how much the wildfires had spread in Chile. Credit: USGS/NASA Landsat Program.
(Public domain.)

The EarthView: Wildfires Ravage Central, South-Central Chile


Wildfires fueled by dry conditions, high temperatures, and strong winds are scorching central Chile at a level Chilean officials say they haven’t seen in decades. Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) mosaics on the left from January 24 and February 2 show multiple fire scars growing across the Chilean landscape.

Image shows a satellite view of wildfire damage in Chile
On January 24, 2017, Landsat 8 took this view of wildfire damage in Chile. Credit: USGS/NASA Landsat Program.
(Public domain.)

The fires, which had consumed roughly 1,060 square miles as of late January, include a large burn area that threatened the city of Empedrado. The two images to the right capture the explosive growth of the fire around the city.

On January 24, the burned land can be seen primarily south of Empedrado, with blue smoke and orange flames visible from an active fire on the periphery of the scar. By February 2, the burn scar expanded to completely surround the city, and extends north all the way to and beyond the Maule River.

Image shows a satellite view of wildfire damage in Chile
This shows longer Landsat sweeps of the region with the area highlighted to show the contrast in images. Credit: USGS/NASA Landsat Program.
(Public domain.)

Satellite data have shown smoke from the Chile fires traveling hundreds of miles, reaching areas in the Central South Pacific. As of February 2, 123 active forest fires were registered in Chile by the National Forest Corporation (CONAF). In all, more than 20,000 people, including firefighters and experts from over a dozen countries, helped battle the wildfires, CONAF officials said.

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