Okefenokee Fire Continues to Burn
A wildfire ignited by lightning in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on April 6, 2017, is persisting into May. Hot, dry weather and extremely dry fuels are making the fire difficult to contain. As of May 22, the blaze, also called the West Mims Fire, had burned 152,478 acres.
Thick smoke is affecting nearby communities, and falling ash has been reported to have reached Jacksonville, Florida, about 30 miles to the southeast. Recent reports indicate that good progress has been made to extinguish the flames; however, drought conditions are expected to continue in this area of extremely dense vegetation.
Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) combined shortwave infrared (SWIR), near-infrared (NIR), and red spectral bands to produce vivid false-color images of the burned area on April 27, 2016, and May 16, 2017. The OLI SWIR band is sensitive to soil and ash in burned areas, while the NIR band is sensitive to healthy vegetation, enabling the Landsat images to provide an accurate distinction between burned and unburned vegetation.
Continuous acquisitions by Landsat will provide scientists with important data through the duration of the fire, as well as after the flames are extinguished, for assessments of burn severity, regrowth, and restoration.