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Satellite photos show Dixie Fire's devastation to California town in before-and-after views

The Dixie Fire almost completely destroyed Greenville, Calif., as shown in this Aug. 9, 2021 image from Maxar's Worldview-1 satellite.
The Dixie Fire almost completely destroyed Greenville, Calif., as shown in this Aug. 9, 2021 image from Maxar's Worldview-1 satellite. (Image credit: Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies)

The ashes of a California town spotted from orbit Monday (Aug. 9) show the devastating impact of the ongoing Dixie wildfire in the United States west.

At least 75 percent of Greenville, Calif. succumbed after the massive blaze tore through the town, according to NBC News. Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies shows just how badly the town was hurt.

Maxar’s WorldView-1 satellite collected black-and-white satellite imagery that shows how the town looks as the smoke clears. Other Maxar imagery provided color infrared data as the fire ripped through the town; burned areas appear as black or grey, and non-burned vegetation shows as shades of red or pink, officials said.

Global warming is increasing the devastation and power of wildfires around the world. The record-breaking blazes are triggered by heatwaves and have been recorded in 2021 on three continents. 

Earth observation satellites, including those from private companies and those from government, have been tracking the fires to assist the affected populations as best as possible.

In Europe, Mediterranean Sea countries such as Greece, Turkey and Italy were forced to evacuate residents and tourists alike from popular vacation destinations. Siberia, the sparsely inhabited region in the north-east of Russia, has seen wildfires break annual records for fire-related emissions of greenhouse gases

In the U.S., the Dixie Fire became the largest wildfire in the history of California, having destroyed more than 700 square miles (1,811 square kilometers) of land (as of Aug. 8).

The Dixie Fire began on July 13 in northern California and remains out of control despite weeks of efforts on the part of firefighters and emergency officials, who are using tools ranging from drones to satellites to modeling to fight the devastating blaze.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.