America’s heartland was speckled with red hotspots and trailing smoke on April 11, 2014 when the Aqua satellite passed overhead. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard that satellite captured this true-color image of fires and smoke in the prairies at 19:05 UTD (2:05 p.m. EDT) that day.
Heavy clusters of hotspots and accompanying smoke – diagnostic for actively burning fires – appear in eastern Kansas and spread into northeastern Oklahoma. Speckles are also seen in Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas (named from north to south) and, in the far northwest corner of the image, a few hotspots are seen in Nebraska.
The first two weeks of April are, traditionally, the time for agricultural fires in the prairie states, as ranchers begin to conduct extensive burning to renew pastures in preparation for bringing in new cattle in May. The removal of old growth brings a flush of new grass, which enhance weight gain in the cattle, leading to healthier livestock which can be brought to market more quickly at better prices.
At times, especially when weather is unsettled and when drought exists, agricultural fires can sweep out of control, creating destructive wildfires. According to the U.S.D.A. Forest Service Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR) (provided by the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC)), on April 18 one fire (BUX-000019) in Butler County, Kansas had affected 2,500 acres, one in Geary Count had consumed 650 acres, a fire in Reno County burnt 500 acres, one in Butler County covered 350 acres, a fire in Wabaunsee County burned at 330 acres, and one in Linn County had consumed 300 acres. At that time, all fires were reported at 100 percent containment.