A man-made fire that was intended to be a “controlled burn” for clearing brush and wilderness at the Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico, became an inferno that devastated significant portions of Los Alamos during the first week of May 2000. Now known as the Cerro Grande fire, it was not confined to Los Alamos alone. The fire spread to 15% of the Santa Clara Indian Reservation and a substantial area of the surrounding national parks and U.S. forests.
The National Weather Service estimates that more than 100,000 fires occur in the natural environment each year within the United States alone, of which about 90% are manmade. Remote sensing images from satellites could be used to detect and monitor these active fires and biomass burning. Forest fires have a significant environmental and economic impact, and timely information about their location and magnitude is essential to contain them.