Fatal fire in California

October 26th, 2006

GOES-11 3.9µm IR animation
The large (40,000 acre or 63 square mile)  “Esperanza wildfire” started during the early morning hours on 26 October 2006 in a portion of the San Bernardino National Forest near Banning, California (west of Palm Springs); this fire quickly burned out of control, and was responsible for the deaths of 5 firefighters. Santa Ana winds across the region were creating favorable conditions for rapid fire growth (the dew point at nearby Palm Springs dropped from 55˚F at 19 UTC on 25 October to -1˚F at 07 UTC on 26 October). GOES-11 3.9µm IR imagery (QuickTime animation, above) showed very hot brightness temperatures (yellow to red enhancement) in the vicinity of this large fire — hot fire pixels were first evident at 08:15 UTC (01:15 AM local time), and image pixel values reached the saturation temperature of the GOES-11 3.9µm detectors (337.2˚K / 64˚C / 147˚F) as early as 12:45 UTC (5:45 AM local time). The Wildfire ABBA product (GOES-11 | GOES-12) also indicated saturated fire pixels (yellow) in that area (20:45 UTC WF_ABBA image).

GOES-11 visible channel imagery (QuickTime animation, below) showed a very large smoke plume from this fire, which was dispersed in different directions due to directional wind shear between the surface and the 500 hPa level (~18,000 feet in altitude). MODIS imagery of the fire from 26 October is posted on the UMBC Air Quality Smog Blog, while the IDEA Aerosol Optical Depth product from the following day shows continued smoke transport out across the adjacent Pacific Ocean.
GOES-11 visible image animation