On the following day, the fire burn scar could be seen in a comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color images from the SSEC RealEarth site (below).Due to the darker color and the lack of vegetation, the grass fire burn scar also exhibited a much warmer signature on the Terra MODIS Land Surface Temperature (LST) product (below) — LST values were as high as 112º F (darker orange color enhancement) within the burn scar, compared to LST values in the 80s and 90s F in surounding areas.
For the central Montana wildfire, the first unambiguous signature of a darker black wildfire hot spot began to appear on each satellite after about 1945 UTC, with the first color-enhanced pixels (signifying a shortwave IR brightness temperature of 331.9 K) showing up on the 2026 UTC GOES-14 image. The hottest fire pixel on the GOES-15 images was 336.5 K at 2130 UTC, while the hottest fire pixel on GOES-13 images was 329.8 K at 2125 UTC. From 2120 to 2130 UTC, the hottest GOES-14 fire pixels were 341.2 K (the saturation temperature of the 3.9 µm detectors on that satellite).
With the finer spatial resolution of the shortwave IR detectors on the polar-orbiting MODIS (1-km) and VIIRS (375-meter) instruments, a fire hot spot was first detected on the 1857 UTC VIIRS image (below).
During the preceding overnight hours, a comparison of 1003 UTC Suomi NPP VIIRS shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm), Day/Night Band (0.8 µm), and Infrared (11.45 µm) images (below) showed a very large shortwave IR fire “hot spot” (yellow to red to black pixels), with the large fire glowing very brightly on the Day/Night Band image; the coldest IR BT value of the cloud streaming northward from the fire was -53º C.
A more detailed view of the fire hot spots was provided by 375-meter resolution (mapped onto a 1-km AWIPS grid) Suomi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR images (below; click to play animation).Many of the fires were burning in the general vicinity of the Utopia Creek, Indian Mountain airport (station identifier PAIM); a time series of surface observation from that site (below) showed that visibility was 1 mile or less due to smoke at times on 25 July. Daily composites of Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images viewed using the SSEC RealEarth web map server are shown below.