September 23, 2010 - Fires in the Fiji Islands

Fires in the Fiji Islands

Dozens of red hotspots dot the western slopes of the islands of Fiji and Vanua Levu, two of the larger islands in the Republic of Fijiís volcanic archipelago, which contains over 332 islands and over 500 small islets. This true-color image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite as it passed overhead on September 20, 2010. Fiji is the southernmost island in this image; Vanua Levu lies to the north.

Thermal sensors on the MODIS instrument identify areas where the temperature is greater than the background temperature and these areas appear red in the image. The heat can be from any cause, but in this case these are likely fires caused by human activity.

The vegetation on west coast of the island, where most of the hotspots are found, is primarily savannah grassland. Large areas of grassland do burn naturally each year on the islands, but the primary cause of fire is from human activity. The Fiji National Fire Authority (NFA) reported 222 fires in August 2010, a high number considering that the previous record for fires in a year is only 600. Numerous fires have been burning throughout September, 2010 as well.

Many fires are started for agricultural purpose. Sugarcane farmers traditionally burn fields during the harvest season, which is nearing completion, and root-crop or vegetable farmers clear land with fire. Fire also can be started by homeowners burning rubbish or yard waste.

On September 10, 2010, in response to the increasing number of grass, brush and rubbish fires, the NFA released a request for residents to refrain from burning rubbish, because the unusually dry and windy conditions made fire spread likely. The government has also asked farmers to refrain from burning sugarcane fields.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 9/20/2010
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC