Lockheed Fire Santa Cruz Mountains
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Lockheed Fire, Santa Cruz Mountains

August 16, 2009
On August 12, 2009, the Lockheed Fire broke out in the mountains southwest of San Jose, California, and burned through an estimated 2,600 acres of brush and timber by the morning of August 14. The fire was burning about 4 miles northwest of the town of Boulder Creek, and at least 2,000 people had been forced to evacuate their homes.

This photo-like image of the fire was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite on August 13. The red outlines mark the location where the sensor detected active fire. A narrow but dense plume of smoke slices across the mouth of Monterey Bay, stretching past the city of Santa Cruz toward Monterey.

The landscape of this part of California is one of redwoods and fir trees, and it appears lushly green in this image. But mixed with these forests are tracts of chaparral (landscapes dominated by fire-adapted, drought-tolerant shrubs and grasses) and large stands of highly flammable knobcone pine. Hot, fast-moving fires are a natural part of this landscape, and people's desire to suppress forest fires around their homes in recent decades has allowed some areas to become unnaturally overgrown—and primed for wildfire.


Bookwalter, G. (2009, August 14). 2004 Cal Fire report called area near Lockheed county's worst fire hazard. Mercurynews.com. Accessed August 14, 2009.

CNN. (2009, August 13). More than 2,000 evacuated as California wildfire grows. CNN.com. Accessed August 14, 2009.

National Interagency Fire Center. (2009, August 14). Incident Management Situation Report, Friday, August 14, 2009-0530 MDT.

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption by Rebecca Lindsey.

Instrument: Aqua - MODIS

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