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Wildfire Data Resources

Photo showing a controlled burn of a forest on a hill side.

Wildland fire is an essential process connecting terrestrial systems to the atmosphere and climate. As vegetation burns, it releases smoke, carbon, and other materials into the atmosphere. These fires also release nutrients into the soil and are an integral part of ecological succession, plant germination, and soil enhancement. NASA provides data, services, and tools that enable resource managers, disaster management teams, and scientists to understand and monitor environmental conditions before a fire starts, measure the intensity and development of fires during a burn, and assess the environmental and socioeconomic effects and impacts after a burn.

Wildfires Data Pathfinder and Toolkit

The Wildfires Data Pathfinder directs users to NASA datasets that can aid in forecasting events, monitoring ongoing events, and assessing post-fire areas. The pathfinder also provides access to tools and applications for discovering, visualizing, and working with wildfire-related resources in NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) collection.

The Wildfires Toolkit is designed as an entry point for accessing NASA Earth science data resources and is a great place to start if you're new to working with NASA Earth observing data. The toolkit contains links to datasets, tutorials and how-tos, feature articles, and Data User Profiles, as well as other useful information related to wildfires.

Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) and FIRMS US/Canada

Screenshot of FIRMS US/Canada fire map

This FIRMS US/Canada Fire Map screenshot was acquired on 20 July 2021 and shows basic information for the Bootleg fire in south-central Oregon. The layer picker on the right allows users to control the display of fires, active alerts, background maps, and other imagery overlays. Explore the FIRMS US/Canada Fire Map. NASA FIRMS image.

NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) distributes global near real-time (NRT) active fire data generally within three hours after an observation by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites and the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) aboard the joint NASA/NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) and NOAA-20 satellites. FIRMS is part of NASA's Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE).

LANCE FIRMS developers partnered with the USDA Forest Service to create FIRMS US/Canada. FIRMS US/Canada offers additional contextual layers and enhancements, including incident locations, links to incident reports, improved classification of fires to show time since detection to better depict active fire fronts, and other information for current large fires in the U.S. and Canada. FIRMS US/Canada also provides U.S. and Canadian administrative ownership boundaries and interagency fire management boundaries, daily fire danger forecasts, and current National Weather Service fire weather watch and red flag warning areas.

Worldview and the Worldview Image of the Week Archive

The NASA Worldview data visualization application gives users the ability to interactively browse and view natural events as they are seen by NASA’s constellation of satellites, including wildfire data pulled from FIRMS. Natural event metadata used in Worldview are curated and provided by NASA's Earth Observatory Natural Event Tracker (EONET) API. Worldview uses NASA's Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS) to retrieve imagery rapidly for interactive browsing. The Worldview Image of the Week Archive showcases Worldview imagery and data and is searchable by keyword (e.g., wildfire, burn scar, etc.), mission/instrument (e.g., MODIS, Terra, Suomi NPP, etc.), and location.

Interactively Explore Wildfire Data in Worldview

Thermal anomalies detected by MODIS or VIIRS are defined as the center of a 1-km pixel (MODIS) or a 375 m pixel (VIIRS) flagged as containing one or more fires or other thermal anomalies (such as an active volcano). Detected anomalies are plotted as orange (MODIS) or red (VIIRS) dots in Worldview generally within three hours of a satellite observation and indicate the approximate location of a potential wildfire or other thermal anomaly.

Just as in FIRMS, clicking on a red or orange dot in Worldview reveals attribute information about the thermal anomaly, including the approximate geographic coordinates of the detected hotspot, the intensity of the anomaly, and date the anomaly was first detected.

The example below is of an embedded Worldview map that allows you to interactively explore some of the wildfire resources available through Worldview. The example shows a list of fire events in northern California between 1 July 2021 and 29 July 2021. Clicking on an event in the Layer List, or on the map allows you to see more information and related resources for that fire event. Clicking on an orange dot brings up vector information about a detected hotspot (note: you may need to zoom in to activate the vector layer). On the embedded map, you can also change the date in the lower left corner to see how the fires have progressed over time. Click on the icon in the upper right corner to open the full version of Worldview in a new browser tab to continue the exploration by adding relevant imagery layers, setting up an animation, and much more!

Articles and Data User Profiles

Wildfires Resource Page- Three Panel Image

Along with all the great data freely available through Earthdata Search and NASA's Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs), dozens of Earthdata articles provide a wealth of background about wildfires, missions collecting wildfire-related data, and how these data are being applied. Data User Profiles show how individual scientists and researchers are using EOSDIS data to explore the ecological impact of wildfires and help communities deal with these events. Additional disaster-related articles are available on the Earthdata Disaster Articles page.

Recent Articles

Wildfires Can't Hide from Earth Observing Satellites
Sensors aboard Earth observing satellites and NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) provide information about wildfires 24/7 to anyone, anywhere in the world.

NASA, Forest Service Partnership Expands Active Fire Mapping Capabilities
A new Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) focused on the U.S. and Canada provides expanded capabilities including additional map layers, ownership boundaries, and daily fire dangers.

Evolution of a Wildfire
Shows how remotely sensed Earth-observing satellite data can be used to monitor and fight wildfires raging in the more remote parts of the world.

Other Relevant Articles and Resources

Wildfire Articles
Collection of articles, Data User Profiles, and other resources organized by wildfire topic.

FIRMS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Relevant Data User Profiles

  • Dr. Laura Bourgeau-Chavez studies the effects of wildfire in boreal-arctic regions.
  • Dr. Nancy French looks at the relationships between wildfire and carbon cycling.
  • Dr. Charles Ichoku uses remotely sensed data to map the effects of biomass burning in Northern Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Dave Jones enables collaborative use of Earth science data in real-time across platforms by emergency responders and managers.
  • Dr. Steven Massie uses remotely-sensed data to better understand the impacts of aerosols from fires and other sources on climate and human health.

Explore more Data User Profiles


NASA Earthdata Webinars span the Earth science disciplines and are designed to help users learn about NASA Earth observing data, services, and tools and show users how to work with these resources.

Data Recipes and Tutorials

Data recipes are step-by-step instructions for using and working with Earth science data, information, tools, and services. Tutorials cover many different data products across the Earth science disciplines and different data discovery and data access tools, including programming languages and related software.

Additional Resources

NASA Disasters Mapping Portal: Wildfires provides links to NASA Disasters program resources and features Event Response Story Maps, Event Response galleries, smoke plume height examples, and wildfire damage proxy maps. The NASA Earth Science Applied Sciences Disasters program area promotes the use of Earth observations to reduce risk, improve response, hasten recovery, and promote resilience from natural and technological disasters on local and global scales.

Published August 2, 2021

Page Last Updated: May 10, 2022 at 9:48 AM EDT