California’s largest wildfire this year is so massive it can be seen from space.
NASA released several satellite images showing the Walker fire, which has been burning in the Plumas National Forest since Sept. 4.
The blaze had chewed through 54,518 acres of Monday morning and was 68% contained.
NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of the fire Sept. 12.
The red outlines show the blaze’s heat signatures, the agency said. Smoke from the hot spots can be seen blowing northeast over Honey Lake.
The Walker fire is one of several wildfires that erupted in the past few weeks in what has been a slow start to the state’s fire season.
Nearly 2,100 firefighters and support personnel are assigned to the blaze, which is burning in remote mountainous terrain about 150 miles northeast of Sacramento. Its cause is under investigation, though investigators think it was started by lightning.
Another satellite image from Sept. 9 — five days after the fire began — shows plumes of smoke blowing into Nevada.
The fire’s path of destruction can be seen clearly in an enhanced satellite photo released by NASA’s Earth Observatory team Friday.
The image, which shows a swath of charred vegetation surrounded by a patchy perimeter of brightly burning hot spots, was taken Sept. 8 by NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite. It was overlaid with false color to emphasize hot spots and burned areas.
Wind has driven much of the fire’s rapid growth and erratic behavior, which prompted several rounds of evacuation orders for towns in Lassen and Plumas counties. All evacuation orders had been lifted by Monday.
Rain showers were falling in the area and were expected to continue into Monday afternoon, with winds holding at about 10 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento. But there was concern about the possibility of thunderstorms later in the day, which could bring lightning strikes.
Fire crews worked through the weekend patrolling the perimeter of the blaze and putting out spot fires. They were able to stop the spread of a separate wildfire that broke out about three miles north on Sunday. That blaze, the Stony fire, was held to 1 acre.
On Monday, fire crews also were beginning to remove hoses from areas where the blaze was deemed under control and were working to control erosion from fire suppression efforts.