August 21, 2019 – An unprecedented wildfire has ripped through the island of Gran Canaria, one of Spain’s Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa. The wildfire, which started on Saturday 17 August, has now started to subside after engulfing around 10 000 hectares of land, leading to the evacuation of over 9000 people.
This false colour image, captured on 19 August, was created using the shortwave infrared bands from the Copernicus Sentinel-2’s instrument, and allows us to clearly see the fires on the ground in bright orange. Burn scars are visible in dark brown. These bands also allow us to see through smoke – but not clouds.
The Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service was activated to help respond to the fire. The service uses satellite observations to help civil protection authorities and, in cases of disaster, the international humanitarian community, respond to emergencies.
The fire started near the town of Tejeda and spread to Tamadaba Natural Park, driven by a combination of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity. According to authorities, over 700 firefighters on the ground and 16 aircraft helped tackle the blaze, with some flames reaching over 50 metres in height.