Fires can be set naturally, such as by lightning, or by humans, whether intentionally or accidentally. Fire is often thought of as a menace and detriment to life, but in some ecosystems it is necessary to maintain the equilibrium, for example, some plants only release seeds under high temperatures that can only be achieved by fire, fires can also clear undergrowth and brush to help restore forests to good health, humans use fire in slash and burn agriculture, to clear away last year’s crop stubble and provide nutrients for the soil and to clear areas for pasture. The fire layer is useful for studying the spatial and temporal distribution of fire, to locate persistent hot spots such as volcanoes and gas flares, to locate the source of air pollution from smoke that may have adverse human health impacts.

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Note: Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE) Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) provides access to current and archived MODIS fire locations through an interactive web mapping interface, Web Fire Mapper. FIRMS also provides a free fire email alert service and options to download fire data in vector formats.

Fires and fire scars in northern California

Fires and fire scars in northern California

Visualize NRT data related to Fires in Worldview

The 2018 fire season in California has been record-breaking. The Mendocino Complex in July was California’s largest fire by burned area on record, destroying nearly half a million acres. The Camp Fire in November was the deadliest and most destructive in state history, completely wiping out the town of Paradise. Read more at NASA's Earth Observatory.

Last Updated: Jan 16, 2020 at 3:24 PM EST