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Satellites Track California's Devastating Kincade Wildfire from Space

NASA's Terra satellite captured an image of the Kincade Fire in California on Oct. 24, 2019.
NASA's Terra satellite captured an image of the Kincade Fire in California on Oct. 24, 2019.
(Image: © NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS))

California residents spent an anxious weekend tracking the path of a wildfire through Sonoma County north of San Francisco Bay — and satellites have been watching along with locals.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Kincade Fire has burned 54,298 acres (220 square kilometers) as of Sunday (Oct. 27) and is just 5% contained, despite the efforts of more than 3,000 firefighting personnel. The fire began burning on Oct. 23 and has destroyed 94 structures so far, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's fire tracker.

Satellites are watching the flames to aid in containment and evacuation procedures. NASA's Terra satellite captured a photograph of the Kincade Fire on Oct. 24, when the fire had already burned through 20,000 acres (80 sq. km). The fire's rapid spread was aided by high winds in the area, as well as low humidity.

Related: In Photos: The 2018 California Wildfires as Seen from Space

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An image of the Kincade Fire in Sonoma, California, taken by Maxar's Worldview 3 satellite on Oct. 24, 2019.

(Image credit: Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies)
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An image of the Kincade Fire in Sonoma, California, taken using shortwave infrared on Oct. 24, 2019.

(Image credit: Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies)
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A wide view of the western edge of the Kincade Fire as seen in shortwave infrared on Oct. 24, 2019.

(Image credit: Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies)
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Fire creeping toward Geyserville, California, on Oct. 24, 2019, as seen in shortwave infrared.

(Image credit: Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies)
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A natural-color image of smoke billowing near Sonoma vineyards on Oct. 24, 2019.

(Image credit: Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies)
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A shortwave-infrared image shows the Kincade Fire near vineyards in Sonoma, California, on Oct. 24, 2019.

(Image credit: Satellite image ©2019 Maxar Technologies)

Privately owned satellites are also keeping an eye on the fire. Maxar's Worldview 3 satellite also studied the Kincade Fire on Oct. 24, taking both natural-color and shortwave-infrared images. The latter technique identifies active fire areas in reddish orange, burned areas in rusty orange and untouched plant matter in blue.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, 185,000 people are currently under evacuation order on account of the Kincade Fire. Two small earthquakes also struck in the region early this morning (Oct. 28), just after 1 a.m. local time.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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