Late on Sunday night, wildfires began tearing through Northern California. By Monday afternoon, 14 major fires burned throughout the state, according to Cal Fire. As of Wednesday, more than 20 fires are burning in Northern California over 170,000 acres.

Red spots indicate active “hot spots” that MODIS has detected within the 6 hours. They are not necessarily fires. See below for more on how this map is generated.

You can click on the arrow to select, or deselect, different map layers. Use the plus and minus to zoom. The map covers fires throughout the state — you can drag to change the area. The map autoupdates as MODIS does, which can take 2 to 4 hours from when the satellites record the hot spots.

NASA uses satellites to detect fires. The instrument aboard satellites, known as MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer), can “see” hot spots because fires produce a recognizable type of heat. Whenever satellites detect a hot spot, they flag the signal’s location and add it to a dataset. An algorithm works with the data and can detect a fire about the size of a quarter-acre. There are two satellites orbiting the earth every 98 minutes. Then that information then goes through an algorithm and is sent back about every 2 to 4 hours.

Fire perimeter data is from Cal Fire and Cal OES.

MAP: Track the Fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties 19 October,2017Lisa Pickoff-White

  • AimĂ© Graves


    • pickoffwhite

      The map includes fires throughout the state detected by MODIS. If you zoom or drag you can see other areas in the state.

      • Thank you Lisa for your informative article! You must have the patience of an angel to keep calm & present facts & information to people in a disaster situation! Do you know how the National Weather Service determines which areas to watch (I.e. the pink areas)? Thank you so much!
        Gratefully, Tarađź’—

  • Sam

    If you zoom out on the map, the Lake county fire actually is included.

  • William w.

    I don’t see any change in fire hotspot location (at least for area around trinity road in Sonoma) for over 12 hours. Seems strange the ”hotspots” would be that static / constant if new data is coming in every 98 minutes? Is this really the most accurate/dynamic mapping of the fires?

    • pickoffwhite

      Hi William, MODIS displays hotspots for 24 hours after it’s detected them. You’ll see a lot more movement around the little house on fire icons that indicate active fires. Thanks for the feedback.

  • David

    This is very helpful for those of us watching things in Geyserville. Thank you very much!!

  • Kerr Twood

    What does a blue overlay indicate? Not explained.

  • rob montgomery

    What does the red “grid” represent?

    • pickoffwhite

      Fire perimeters. I’ll add a note. Thanks for asking.

  • Sam

    I’m not sure this is updating well. Spotters on the ground confirm the flames are much closer to our property than indicated here and there’s no change in the hotspots throughout the day. Sadly, we are finding it almost impossible to get good information and every press conference amounts to “I don’t know” and “we aren’t sure yet”. Those of us about to lose homes are trying to hold it together at work and desperately searching for information throughout the day with almost no good results. I get that there’s work to be done but we are almost 4 days into this and nobody has any answers for us.

  • Jeremy Regenbogen

    Great data analysis, Lisa. A fascinating addition to this would be to see the map “in motion” since these major fires started…a visual chronology of their spread over time would let everyone understand the scale of devastation in such a short amount of time. Thinking of weather radar maps where you can track storm movement.

  • Lola Themola

    The pink area is a Red Flag warning area, according to not a “weather watch” area. The weather watch area — meaning weather and conditions that are conducive to fire — is the beige area. Red flag means

  • Roy

    how do I get a link to just this map on my browser? very good compared to many I have been tryng to get info from. In advisory evac area but have hope. hard to get current info where things are still burning to judge when to leave.

  • Cassandra Mitchell

    I’ve heard the distressed residents west of Oakville complain that the planes won’t drop retardant on the burning hills because people are flying their drones there. If anyone is reading this who flies drones over an active fire area
    , please come to your senses. People’s houses are burning up!


Lisa Pickoff-White

Lisa Pickoff-White is KQED’s data reporter. Lisa specializes in simplifying complex topics and bringing them to life through compelling visuals, including photography and data visualizations. She previously has worked at the Center for Investigative Reporting and other national outlets. Her work has been honored with awards from the Online News Association, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists and SXSW Interactive.  Follow: @pickoffwhite Email:

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