NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Text by Adam Voiland.

December 5, 2017 – Thick smoke streamed from several fires in southern California when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer(MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image in the afternoon on December 5, 2017.

The largest of the blazes—the fast-moving Thomas fire in Ventura County—had charred more than 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) in less than a day, according to Cal Fire. Smaller smoke plumes from the Creek and Rye fires are also visible.

Powerful Santa Ana winds intensified the fires. Forecasters with the Los Angeles office of the National Weather Service warned that the region is in the midst of its strongest and longest Santa Ana wind event of the year. They issued red flag warnings for Los Angles and Ventura counties through December 7, noting that wind gusts of 80 miles (130 kilometers) per hour are possible.