By William Helms

On the morning of May 20, 2020, lightning struck in Las Animas County. This sparked a wildfire that would eventually spread to more than 11,000 acres of land in Southeastern Colorado over the following week. As seen in the above image, the wildfire stretched northward from its initial location. The rapid spread was made possible with the help of “unseasonably warm weather and strong winds” according to Sam Tabachnik of The Denver Post. While firefighters would not be able to contain the fire until May 27 with the aid of cooler weather and precipitation according to Elise Schmelzer, also of The Denver Post, VIIRS Nightfire shows a significant drop off in heat activity in the area after May 23.

The above image was created from Google Earth using VIIRS Nightfire (VNF) data collected from May 20 to May 23 to show the temperatures and areas affected by the blaze. By additionally using an overlay of the Nighttime Lights data collected on May 23 (represented by the lighter gray and white in the image) we can see how both sets of data can be used to corroborate one another.

Sam Tabachnik, “Firefighters Battle 10,000-Acre Fire in Las Animas County.” The Denver Post. May 23, 2020.
Elise Schmelzer, “Firefighting Activity Winds down as Wildfire in Las Animas County Comes under Control.” The Denver Post. May 27, 2020.