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Map courtesy of NASA:  MODIS Dec 16, 2012 – Dec 25, 2012. Each of these fire maps accumulates the locations of the fires detected by the MODIS instrument on board NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites over a 10-day period. Each colored dot indicates a location where MODIS detected at least one fire during the compositing period. Color ranges from red, where the fire count is low, to yellow where the number of fires is large. The compositing periods are referenced by their start and end dates (Julian day). The duration of each compositing period was set to 10 days. Compositing periods are reset every year to facilitate year-to-year comparisons. The first compositing period of each year starts on January 1. The last compositing period of each year includes a few days from the next year.






There were over 56,000 forest fires in the United States during 2012. Millions of trees, which provide beauty, shelter, clean air and drinking water, were destroyed. While trees can be replanted where they were lost, according to the Arbor Day Foundation over one million acres of the country’s national forests are on backlog for planting.

Forest fires can have many different causes, natural or human. They can start from camp fires, burning cigarettes, arson or lightning. The Mustang Complex Fire, for example, was sparked by lightning in July 2012. Consuming over 340,000 acres, this has been the largest fire in the state of Idaho.

Drought and heat add to the potential for fire. The infestation of pine bark beetles can also create dry conditions favorable to fire, turning a forest into a tinderbox, just waiting for a spark. While some fires begin by natural causes, the majority are caused by humans. In 2006, 83 percent of fires were started as a result of human activity and contributed to the burning of 4.4 million acres across the United States, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

What can we do to assist those committed to preserving our national tree heritage from the threat of forest fires?

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