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Thread: wildfire season already

  1. #1

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    wildfire season already

    Yesterday afternoon I went down to the Oregon/California border to do some evening photography. On the way down I saw a plume of smoke from somewhere northeast of Mount Shasta, and there was smoke from another fire off to the east. Woke up this morning to the smell of smoke and, sure enough, we've got some here in the Klamath Basin. I was hoping we could at least get through May, maybe even June, without smoke.

  2. #2
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Not an encouraging sign. I think we're in for another tragic summer-autumn fire season, the new normal. At least the Pacific Northwest has a healthy snowpack in the Cascades. East of Seattle, the mountains have about 140% of normal in many places. It's so deep, I won't even be able to travel much above 5,000 feet on FS roads until well after Memorial Day. Hope the inevitable forest fires haven't ignited by then.

    For those who might be curious, here's what a typical Cascade fire looks like:

    Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #3
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: wildfire season already

    They're particularly worried about the huge still unburned area between Shasta and the Siskiyou, which includes the Trinity Alps. What makes that area even worse is that there is an abundance of illegal pot farms back in there as potential accidental ignition sources. Brush fires have already begun in southern Calif. I'm still planning on a southern Sierra backpack simply because so much of the lower country there has already burned over the past ten years, so the risk for another massive fire has diminished in that region to an extent. But it doesn't take much to bring in bad smoke from elsewhere, so I'm keeping open a number for alternative destinations, including the Northwest. I know what fires look like. The infamous one last autumn that sent smoke clear across the continent, even as far as Europe, was in the canyon which was my former living room view. It created a thermal cloud 80,000 feet high. No ground fire fighting equipment could operate even within ten miles of a fire like that. And the only reason there was so little loss of life (only two, both heart attacks, one a family friend) was that the terrain is rugged that it's mostly uninhabited.

    The young family who bought my property were camping at the end of the road at that time, and it took almost a week for a big military rescue helicopter to get in there while the only road was cut off. One of them had to be hospitalized for smoke issues; the others were in a shelter while the whole area was evacuated and sealed off; and somewhere in that process, they all got covid, one with serious long-term complications. But fire potential does look ominous again for California and much of the West; the climate shift is doing its thing, and people are only slowly waking up to that solemn fact when it's already too late in certain respects.

  4. #4
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    …I'm keeping open a number for alternative destinations, including the Northwest.
    Time to get you back to the Olympics!

    Though fires are expected there too, the kind that burn and smolder forever under the rich, thick forest floors.

    Especially in the rain forests under the Big Leaf Maples.

  5. #5
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Where I moved to here in Central New Jersey, the Forest Fire Service burns off a lot of areas off of roads and in generally residential areas. I got out to photograph them in Tmax 400 film (sorry, it was 35mm not large format. I didn't have my 4x5 at the time but it should be interesting to try shooting it again in 4x5)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2pUj1MPQj0

  6. #6
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Fun images!

    Richard did some great work with 8x10 and fire...
    Some examples....

    https://www.pacegallery.com/artists/richard-misrach/
    http://www.kicken-gallery.com/artists/richard-misrach
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  7. #7
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Yeah, I saw the 30X40 prints of those back when they were first all displayed together at the local museum, including that classic "burning bush" one. Friends of mine printed them for him. A different kind of fire. In the kind of forest fires I knew, you couldn't run fast enough to survive, let alone set up an 8X10. Trees would outright explode at kindling temperature a quarter mile ahead of the fire line. I don't imagine Misrach's mahogany Dorff would have fared any better under those conditions, much less him. I have that little Desert Cantos book, but the burning bush shot carries a lot more impact significantly enlarged; not all his images do - some in that series are rather poorly focused.

    But back to fire conditions this year. I just checked the Caltrans updates, which came with pictures. They had already gotten plows up to Sonora Pass by the beginning of April, and there was only four feet of snow at the top. Egad! Bare ground is already apparent in patches around Sardine Meadow a bit below. But Sonora Pass won't be official open until Ebbets Pass is. Monitor Pass is already open. Locally, less rain mean lower grass on ranchlands, so a bit easier to control if something breaks out; and local burbs are finally beginning to do what is absolutely essential - enforce draconian fines on anyone who do not clear a legal perimeter. Select control burns have already transpired along roadways or brush piles when it was damper and safe to do so, and only by officially trained personnel with fire trucks standing ready nearby.

  8. #8
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    Re: wildfire season already

    We had a 45 acre man-caused fire near here last weekend. Luckily they caught it in time. They also arrested a guy who was involved.
    Keith Pitman

  9. #9
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: wildfire season already

    As a teenager, I survived an arson forest fire over 400,000 acres in size. Many of my classmates were homeless afterwards. Things were classified a little differently back then, according to single points of ignition. But it turns out the same person, after he was arrested right in the act of yet another arson incident, had deliberately set off the first fire at several points in the hope they would merge - and they did. An older couple died in that fire, and afterwards a State law was put into effect allowing the death penalty for any deliberate act of arson in which someone dies. I don't know if anyone has ever actually been executed for that yet.

    We had one of those kind of wackos running around the back roads here last year. But by still classifying one string as 13 different fires, set at multiple points along the way, instead of one cumulative fire, this allowed them to charge him with 13 counts of arson, assuring that he will be locked up for a long long time. An even worse case occurred down near Big Sur where a drug dealer set fire to his cabin and adjacent woodlands to destroy evidence. That burned about 40,000 acres of scenic land and seriously impacted rare California condor nests.

  10. #10
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: wildfire season already

    You are right -- Richard's work would only be a touch more intense than Alan's project...and Richard had a lot more room to work with than Alan had. Using a 4x5 would change Alan's approach to the subject -- much more planning would be needed and changing the idea of what should/needs to be in focus. It would be a challenging project.

    I have to admit that when jumping off a helicopter that was balancing on one skid on a ridge top in the middle of the wilderness to control a 7-acre fire (with a couple other firefighters), photographing was the last thing on my mind...and I don't think the heat would have been that good for the film. That particular fire singed the beard a little...
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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