As of Friday morning, the Southern California wildfires continued to spread their fiery reach, inching toward populous areas like Santa Barbara and Bel-Air. The largest fire now spans more than 200 square miles, with new blazes cropping up and challenging firefighters further. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fires are large enough to be viewed from space, and several astronauts have captured images.
Astronaut Randy Bresnik responded to one Twitter user’s inquiry as to whether the fires could be seen from the space station on Wednesday. They can. He followed up by tweeting a thank you “to all the first responders, firefighters, and citizens willing to help these California wildfires.” In the tweets, he shared seven images of the smoky fires as seen from the International Space Station (ISS).
From the ISS’s point of view during daylight hours, the heavy smoky plumes could almost be mistaken for clouds.
Bresnick has been an astronaut since 2004 and has been on a mission in the ISS since July. During the space station’s Southern California passover on Thursday, Bresnick snapped a few more images.
Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy also tweeted some images, snapped from 250 miles above Earth’s surface. From his vantage point, the smoke looks ominous—and very thick.
Authorities have expanded mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders in several counties from San Diego to Santa Barbara. The largest of the area’s fires, the Thomas fire, is still only 5 percent contained, Reuters reports. More than 2,600 firefighters are working to get it under control. The newest blaze, near San Diego, is dubbed the Lilac Fire. By Thursday evening, it had expanded to more than 4,000 acres. California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency in four counties, and President Trump has also declared a state of emergency for the state.
Weather forecasts predict that the powerful, flame-fanning Santa Ana winds should die down by Friday and Saturday. This should help firefighters better contain the fires.
If you want to help those affected by the Southern California wildfires, here are some good resources.