Astronaut spots California wildfires from space, sends 'thoughts and prayers' to victims

California is on fire, with more than 360 individual blazes scorching across the state.

Unsurprisingly, the effects are visible from space, as NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy shared images today (Aug. 21) of huge billows of smoke above California as seen from his perch on the International Space Station.

“Thanks to all of the fire fighters and emergency teams who are working around the clock trying to get these fires contained,” Cassidy said in the tweet. “Thoughts and prayers to all of the people in the impacted areas.”

California’s difficult fire season is the result of unusual lightning-rich storms occurring during a record-topping heatwave, according to The New York Times. Moreover, the state relies heavily of inmates to staff its firefighting crews, and prisons have been hit particularly badly by the coronavirus pandemic, according to The Sacramento Bee..

The state knew even before the current heatwave that this would be a tricky fire season. A forecast from CALFIRE, the state’s firefighting agency, cited low precipitation rates leading to high risk in northern California, particularly in August and September, and wind-induced fire risk in the southern part of the state later in the fall. 

NASA astronauts are used to monitoring disasters on Earth from their temporary home in space. Earlier this month, Cassidy shared an image of Beirut, Lebanon, which saw devastating explosions.

Cassidy arrived at the space station in April with two Russian cosmonauts, and the trio will remain in orbit until October.


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