Skip to main content

Whoosh! Aircraft Drops Retardant on Oregon Fire (Photo)

An MD-87 tanker fights a forest fire
An MD-87 tanker drops flame retardant on the Two Bulls fire near Bend, Oregon, on June 7, 2014. (Image credit: Jim Hansen, Central Oregon Fire Management Service)

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. 

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 this morning (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 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. 

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

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

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescienceFacebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Stephanie Pappas
Stephanie Pappas

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.