PHOTOS: Aircraft Drops Retardant on Oregon Fire

By Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor
6/11/2014 11:21:33 AM

Zooming low and tight against a cloud of billowing smoke, an MD-87 air tanker drops retardant on the Two Bulls fire in Oregon in a new photo.

The stunning shot comes courtesy of Jim Hansen of the Central Oregon Fire Management Service, who snapped it from a 337 Skymaster airplane on June 7, according to NASA's Earth Observatory.

An MD-87 tanker drops flame retardant on the Two Bulls fire near Bend, Oregon, on June 7, 2014. Credit: Jim Hansen, Central Oregon Fire Management Service

The Two Bulls fire began as two separate burns on June 7, according to Central Oregon Fire Information. Both fires began on private timber lands just west of Bend, Oregon, and state investigators say the fires were human-caused. Officials are now seeking help from the public in finding the culprits responsible for starting the fires.

The fire has forced closures in Deschutes National Forest, as well as the evacuation of dozens of homes in the area.

Dry conditions exacerbated the forest fire over the weekend, according to InciWeb. "Although it's early June, the large logs and other downed woody debris are as dry as if it was July," officials wrote on the fire-notification website. As of June 10, however, the fire was largely contained and firefighters were working to mop up remaining flames. Overall, the fire has burned 6,837 acres (2,767 hectacres) of brush and timber.

The Two Bulls fire as seen by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite on June 8, 2014. Credit: NASA image courtesy LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

The effort to contain the fire is clear from Hansen's image, which shows one of the aircraft used in battling the blaze. Retardants usually mix water with chemicals such as ammonium sulfate, which not only quell flames, but also fertilize the soil. The brilliant red color is due to a dye (frequently ferric oxide), which is used to mark areas where retardant has been dropped.

The Oregon Department of Forestry Incident Management Team estimates that the Two Bulls has cost $2.4 million to fight so far.

A second image, released along with Hansen's photograph by NASA's Earth Observatory, shows a view of the Two Bulls fire from space. Taken by an instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite on June 8, this image shows smoke from the fire. Red lines show hotspots that indicate flames.

Editor's Note: If you have an amazing weather or general science photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Jeanna Bryner at

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