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After a fire, before a flood: NASA's Landsat directs restoration to at-risk areas

21 August 2013

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While the 138,000-acre Silver Fire still smoldered, forest restoration specialists were on the job. They analysed maps created using Landsat satellite data to determine where the burn destroyed vegetation and exposed soil - and where to focus emergency restoration efforts.

"The map looked like a big red blob," said Penny Luehring, the U.S. Forest Service's Burned Area Emergency Response and watershed improvement program leader, based in Albuquerque, N.M.

Red means high-severity fire, she explained - and the red areas were concentrated in a watershed drainage that fed communities west of Las Cruces, N.M. So crews got to work. The Burned Area Emergency Response, or BAER, teams are designed to go in as soon as the flames die down to help protect reservoirs, watersheds and infrastructure from post-fire floods and erosion. And Landsat satellites, built by NASA and operated by the U.S. Geological Survey, help direct the crews to those forest areas needing attention.

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

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