To hear and read the MSM reports about this fire, you’d think that the entire states of Colorado and Wyoming were ablaze. Meanwhile, the usual paid advocates are already wailing about how the fires are supposedly exacerbated by “climate change”. NASA has released MODIS imagery that puts the size of fire in perspective:
Colorado’s High Park Fire continues to expand and generate a lot of smoke visible on NASA satellite imagery. NASA’s Terra satellite showed winds from the west-southwest blowing the smoke to the north-northeast and into Wyoming and southwestern Nebraska on June 19th, 2012.
The High Park Fire is located approximately 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado, and is now 55 percent contained. To date, 189 homes have been lost, according to the U.S. Forest Service. More than 1,900 people are currently battling the fire, and about 1.3 million gallons of water have been dropped on it. As of June 20, the fire has consumed 65,738 acres, up from the previous day’s total area of 59,500.
On June 19, 2012, at 1840 UTC (2:40 p.m. EDT) the light brown colored smoke and the heat signatures from the fires were detected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies onboard NASA’s Terra satellite.
Inciweb reports that pre-evacuation notices were issued to a number of areas. The U.S. Forest Service reported that fire was spotted “across the Poudre Canyon on the northwest corner of the fire triggered additional evacuations for the Glacier View subdivision and additional pre-evacuation notices west to Glen Echo Resort.” For a complete list of those areas and more information and firefighting updates, visit the Inciweb website: http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2904/.
For an unlabeled, high-resolution version of this image, visit: http://lance-modis.eosdis.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/imagery/single.cgi?image=Colorado.A2012171.1840.250m.jpg.
Some interesting stats from SOS Forests Western Institute for Study of the Environment:
The number of wildfires has been declining since the early 1980’s. That may be an artifact of the counting system. Many small fires started by multiple lightning strikes in the same vicinity are counted as one fire today, while they may have been counted as many individual fires in prior decades.
Total Number of Wildfires, 1960-2009. Chart by W.I.S.E.
In addition, delays in rapid response to small fires may result in those fires merging, and then they are counted as one fire. That can happen to large fires that merge, as well. There are many name changes and mergers of fires during the fire season, which confounds the fire count. Wildfires don’t happen in test tubes in a laboratory, and so the counting system is not as accurate and precise as some scientific studies might lead you to believe.
Another possible explanation for the decreasing number of wildfires is that human-caused and/or lightning-ignited fires are fewer today than 30 years ago. We have no data to either support or refute those hypotheses.
The average size of wildfires in 2009 was 75 acres. That is more than 2008 (66 acres per wildfire), but less than 2005, 2006, and 2007 when the average wildfire size was 131 acres, 103 acres, and 113 acres per fire, respectively.
Average fire size is not a useful statistic, though, because the distribution (number of fires by acreage class) is skewed by a few very large fires (greater than 20,000 acres). The NIFC does not report the distribution, but it is more or less in a “reverse-J” (negative exponential) shape, with many small fires, fewer medium-sized fires, and a handful of megafires out in the tail. The average fire size is also dependent on the total count of wildfires, which may be biased by inaccuracies and imprecision in the counting system, as mentioned above. We present the following chart anyway, because we have the annual data and it was easy to make the graph.
Annual Average Wildfire Size, 1960-2009. Chart by W.I.S.E.