Satellite photos of the California wildfires reveal their incredible destruction from space

NASA Earth ObservatoryA satellite view of Paradise, California, on November 8, 2018.

California is still burning.

As of Tuesday, three major wildfires – the Camp, Hill, and Woolsey fires – have killed dozens of people and scorched hundreds of thousands of acres of forests and infrastructure.

Firefighters are struggling to contain the biggest blazes.

The Camp Fire, which is located north of Sacramento, quickly burned the entire town of Paradise to the ground. It’s now California’s most destructive wildfire in terms of structures destroyed, and is one of the state’s deadliest blazes ever. Parts of the beach community Malibu went up in flames in the Woolsey Fire, sending Hollywood actors and actresses running for safety.

So far, these two rapidly evolving disasters has left at least 44 people dead, some of whom were killed while trying to escape in cars.

Satellites owned by NASA and commercial companies such as DigitalGlobe are recording images of the fires from space. These photos provide an incredible view of how large and intense the fires are, and how quickly they have grown.

Here are some of the best satellite pictures of the fires so far.

As of Monday, California was dealing with three major wildfires. The Camp Fire is located about 80 miles north of Sacramento, while the Woolsey Fire and smaller Hill Fire are outside Los Angeles.

Business InsiderA map showing the locations of major and less dangerous wildfires in California as of November 12, 2018.

Source: Business Insider

On Wednesday, dry, warm winds — including gusts of about 50 mph — blew through northern California. Climate change is drying out more vegetation in the region, increasing the risk that spreading embers will grow into larger blazes.

NASA WorldviewThe western US on November 7, 2018. Red dots show active fires.

Source: Business Insider

The gusts and abnormally dry conditions (it’s supposed to be the rainy season) helped spread the Camp Fire. As of Tuesday, that fast-burning blaze had burned more than 125,000 acres, 6,500 homes, and 260 businesses, making it the most destructive wildfire in California history.

NASA WorldviewThe western US on November 8, 2018. Red dots show active fires.

Sources: Business Insider, CalFire

The Camp Fire grew at a rate of about 80 football fields per minute. This breakneck expansion pushed the blaze into the town of Paradise, which had a population of about 27,000, and caught its residents off-guard.

NASA Earth ObservatoryA satellite view of Paradise, California, on November 8, 2018.

Sources: Insider, Forbes, US Census Bureau

DigitalGlobe took this regional photo on Friday using its WorldView-3 satellite. By recording infrared light, the satellite’s view can penetrate thick smoke and detect fires.

Healthy vegetation is shown in blue, active fires glow, and scorched areas look yellow-green and yellow-orange. The towns of Magalia and Paradise are in flames to the left in this picture.

Here’s a close-up view of Magalia (top-center) and the northern tip of Paradise (bottom-left) as seen from space in September.

This WorldView-3 image shows the same view on Friday. Magalia, population roughly 11,000, is in flames.


The entire town of Paradise was leveled in a day, and the fire has killed at least 42 people. This makes the Camp Fire the most deadly in California’s history. The Griffith Park Fire of 1933, which killed 29, was previously the worst.

Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar companyA visible-light view of Paradise, California, on November 9, 2018.

Sources: Business Insider, LA Times

As the Camp Fire raged, the Hill and Woolsey fires also grew, You can see those fires outside of Los Angeles in this satellite image from Friday.

NASA WorldviewThe western US on November 9, 2018. Red dots show active fires.

All three wildfires covered most of California in a haze of smoke over the weekend.

NASA WorldviewThe western US on November 10, 2018. Red dots show active fires.

As of Monday morning, the Woolsey Fire had scorched about 96,000 acres of land. This view shows the Malibu area on Sunday.

Source: CalFire

WorldView-3’s infrared camera peered through the smoke in the mountains to show this view of the fires on the same day.

Here’s Point Dume in Malibu in February 2018 — before the Woolsey Fire.

By Sunday, the wildfire had torn through canyons in the beach community, burning homes and killing two people in a car. The blaze sent many celebrities fleeing and torched some of their houses.

Sources: Insider (1,2)

As of Tuesday morning, the Woolsey Fire was about 35% contained and the Camp Fire was about 30% contained. The Hill Fire was about 90% contained.

NASA WorldviewThe western US on November 11, 2018. Red dots show active fires.

Sources: Business Insider, CalFire (1, 2), Ventura County Emergency Information

This story has been updated. It was originally published on November 12, 2018.

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