A ferocious outbreak of wildfires has ravaged central Chile since early February 2023, leaving more than 23 people dead as flames continued to spread across the region.
On February 2, Chile declared a state of emergency as wildfires burned in the regions of Ñuble and Biobío, with La Auricanía and Maule added to the emergency declaration as flames continued to expand. As of February 4, the country’s disaster mitigation agency estimated 232 fires were actively burning, and 149 additional fires had been brought under control.
On February 6, more than 286,299 hectares had been burnt, according to ReliefWeb. That’s an area larger than the country of Costa Rica. That same evening, Chile Today reported that an estimated 1,000 people had been injured and more than 1,800 had been forced to flee their homes. One Chilean firefighter lost her life over the weekend when the helicopter she was serving on crashed while fighting the blazes.
The world has responded to the extreme fire emergency in Chile, with the United States, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Colombia, and Portugal all sending equipment, firefighters, or both in answer to President’s Boric request for aid. Unfortunately, as of the evening of February 6, satellite imagery does not yet show the fires retreating.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a true-color image of Chile’s wildfire outbreak on February 4. Each red mark indicates an area where the thermal bands on the MODIS instrument detected high temperatures which, in this case, signify actively burning fires. Copious gray smoke rises from the flames, blanketing the region under a thick layer of smoke and particulate matter. To the west, a heavy tan shroud lies over or mixes in with a layer of cloud over the Pacific Ocean. While the color is more typical of dust than smoke, satellite imagery over consecutive days strongly suggests that it is most likely smoke from these wildfires. The tan cloud stretches more than 745 miles (1,200 km) over the ocean from the Chilean coastline.
Date Acquired: 2/4/2023
Resolutions: 1km (426.8 KB), 500m (1.4 MB), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC