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NASA 'fire towers' in space watch for wildfires on the rise

09 August 2013

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The Black Forest wildfire this June was one of the most destructive in Colorado history, in terms of homes lost. It started close to houses and quickly spread through the ponderosa pine canopies on the rolling hills near Colorado Springs. The wildfire destroyed 500 homes in the first 48 hours and killed two people.

Hot, dry and windy weather played a role in that wildfire, said Don Smurthwaite, spokesperson with the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho. "Fire seasons are getting longer, western regions are getting drier, and more people are living closer to fire-prone areas." Fire scientists have observed those conditions becoming more prevalent across the United States.

As the western United States enters what is typically the most active time of its fire season, scientists, firefighters and residents are keeping close watch on what's burning - not just this year, but over the long term. As temperatures warm and weather patterns change, scientists from NASA, universities and other government agencies are putting their satellite observation and computer modelling capabilities to work. They are grappling with what the future landscape of fire will look like in the American West.

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

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