Stunning photos and video of the Yosemite Rim Fire, from the air, ground and even space


posted Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 1:05 PM EDT


The Rim wildfire hitting Northern California right now is one of the worst in recent years. In addition to having burned 160,980 acres (251.53 sq mi), it has also threatened Yosemite National Park, the water and power supplies to San Francisco, as well as directly endangering a number of smaller towns.

To get an idea of just how enormous this fire is, NASA has trained some of its instruments at the blaze, giving us an unparalleled view of the spread of its destruction. Chief among the photos is this one (below), taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA's Terra satellite on Aug. 25, 2013, which shows the edges of the fire marked in red.

NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC

NASA has also provided images of the blaze at night, and using Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) data to show the smoke plume spreading over four states. Astronauts have also been able to snap pictures of the blaze as the ISS passed over it, like this image from August 24th from a Expedition 36 crew member.


NASA astronaut Karen L. Nyberg also tweeted an image of the blaze yesterday.

Closer to the ground, you get a feeling for just how large and terrifying this fire is. The California Air National Guard has posted a series of cockpit view videos of the blaze, as they try and battle what is the largest fire on record in the Sierra Nevada. From this view, you get a sense for just how much of the landscape is dominated by this blaze.

The view from the ground, though, is really what drives home how big and frightening this fire really is. You can get a taste for the size of the blaze with photo roundups at BuzzFeed and the BBC, where you can see the attempts to fight the Rim Fire from the ground. InciWeb, an "interagency all-risk incident information management system" across the Western states, also has a number of photographs of the Rim Fire. There's even a webcam pointed at the fire, so you can watch it from your computer.


It's clear this fire is one of immense destructive power, and one that's going to take a substantial amount of effort to subdue. The most recent reports state the fire is approximately 20% contained, but the dry landscape, steep terrain and high temperatures make for a difficult battle. More than 3,700 firefighters are engaged in trying to bring it under control, in what is now the 13th largest fire in the state's history.