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Thread: wildfire season already

  1. #11
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: wildfire season already

    I never fought fires professionally. Back then, every able body was expected to pitch in some manner. That was called survival, just like community controls burns themselves, before those got outlawed due to air quality issues. But we had a boarder who carried a camera with him on the helicopters which dropped him onto the fire line. All his shots I ever saw were from the air, so he probably left the camera behind on the chopper. The work on the ground was too intense anyway for any kind of distracting effort.

    I'm personally sensitized to forest fire smoke after all I've been through, so am not likely to try any journalistic approach to photographing them. I go back afterwards for the incredible sheens, hues, and patterns, and yes, the sad and surrealistic of what fires do too. It's strange seeing the smoking remains of the tiny country store right uphill from where I grew up shown on newscasts all over the world; but that was one of the few accessible points they'd allow the press or civic officials (including the Governor and current Vice President) even a brief look. Everything past that is Armageddon. But the vegetation is genetically engineered to start back up after fire. Some species like Sugar Pine are not likely to do well, however, due to significant climate warming with its ecosystem desiccation.

  2. #12

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    Re: wildfire season already

    The SF Chronicle had a story today about a sequoia in Sequoia National Park that is still smoking from last year's fire. https://www.sfchronicle.com/californ...l-16153658.php

    -Darren

  3. #13
    Alan Klein's Avatar
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    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...
    My 35mm shots were off the cuff. I just happened to be in the area scoping out some other pictures. The Firest Fire service was there getting ready so I grabbed my 35mm and shot away. If I did shoot 4x5, I would request their cooperation in advance, if they would give it so I could do a complete essay including their fire house and personal shots. They didn't bother me while I was shooting the 35mm and I said nothing to them as I walked around just letting them do their work.

  4. #14
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Your camera would have melted into a ball around our forest fires here, or more likely, been vaporized. The fire crews bulldoze breaks, clear brush, and sometimes set backfires several miles from the actual front. We had fire tornadoes ripping large trees right out of ground and burning them mid-air. By the time press photographers are allowed back in, if its an accessible area at all, it's just during the smoldering mop-up phase after the main event. A few do get to shoot near fire trucks. But a lot of this occurs where fire trucks simply can't go, and sometime planes and helicopters can't even fly due to visibility issues. You're talking about events far more powerful than a hydrogen bomb (but thankfully, not radioactive). It really gets crazy when these new style mega-fires hit the suburban interface, and things like propane tanks and gas lines explode, plastic structures and aluminum vaporize, Burger Kings completely burn down and their bacterial burgers finally get sterilized. That is some really nasty smoke.

  5. #15
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Fighting a fire on a ridge in the wilds, we wwere running out of water and too much smoke for copters to fly. Eventually one could come on out and they pushed a cubetainer (5gal) out of the copter and continued on their way. But they pushed out the wrong cubetainer. Instead of 5 gallons of water, it contained a large, perfectly ripe crenshaw mellon...better than water! The copter obvious was on its way to the main fire camp in the wilderness and those crews missed out on mellon!

    We eventually got ferried back to the main camp by the time the main fire was fairly well controlled and I was patrolling around the fireline all night to make sure the fire did not jump the line. That was when a camera would have been great. Semi-boring with incredible visuals of trees occasionally exploding below all night.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  6. #16
    http://www.spiritsofsilver.com tgtaylor's Avatar
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Back during the Vietnam War I served with the 1st Air Cavalry Division and we did so many air assaults that we were awarded the Air Medal. You supposed to get a oak leaf cluster for each 25 missions but we (ordinary infantrymen) never got any oak leafs – apparently the count was kept only for the senior officers because I've only seen battalion majors and colonels with oak leafs and I had made as many as 3 air assaults in one day! The choppers would ever land or even hover. As the “jumping off” point was reached I would get up off the floor and hop out on the skids holding on the the chopper with one hand so that I wouldn't fall off. Fast forward to about 10 years ago I was working near the Pleasanton Fair grounds. After sitting all morning in an office I usually spend my1 hour lunch breaks walking and one day they had a “Stand Down” for homeless vets at the fair grounds so I walked over there to check it out. They had a vintage Huey from the war there and it appeared incredibly small from what I remembered. I couldn't see how a squad of us got into it. Of course I was decades older and a few pounds heaver but still...

    Logging oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico in good weather we would put our tools on a crew boat for transport and take a helicopter to the rig – about 100 miles out in the Gulf. Usually the rig personnel just started pulling the pipe out of the from the hole and that meant that we could get something to eat from the Galley and some sleep before being awakened that our tools have arrived and the pipe was out of the hole. Once started we couldn't stop until the job was done because with the drilling pipe out of the hole no drilling was going on. But during bad weather – weather that prevented the helicopter from flying - we went along with the tools on the crew boat – about a 100 foot vessel. I can take the swaying to and fro in rough seas feeling nauseous but as soon as the boat makes that first jump out of the water on the large swells I make a bee line for the head where I remain for the duration holding on to the sink with both hands and dry heaving. This went on for hours, like 10 or more, until the rig was reached at which time the Captain would cut the motors and try to maneuver under a sling that was dropped by a crane operator on the rig. I could tell by the sound of the motors where the position of the sling was over the deck. At the precise moment I would run from the head and out onto the deck would get a bead on the sling swinging latterly across the back of the boat and, again at the precise moment, run and grab a hold of it and wrap it around both arms so that I wouldn't fall into the Gulf. That was the go single for everyone else. As soon as I was on that sling the sickness would pass.

    Thomas

  7. #17
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: wildfire season already

    No thank you (but thank you for your time in the service)...my few copters rides were enough, but interesting as we were flying over wilderness I was usually covering on foot or horseback, and got to see some wet areas I did not know about, etc.

    Roughest seas I have been on was crossing the Cook Straight, NZ, in 1975...as a semi-drunk passenger, so not quite the same!

    Edit. My dad went to the US Merchant Marine Academy ('42-'44) and then went into the Navy ('44-'48). As a cadet and later as an engineering officer he was in NZ a couple times, but never interested in sailing. I was surprised by a comment he made decades ago when in one of the World Cup races, a sailboat decided to cut through the Cook Straight..."That is a mistake." Turned out it was a time-loser for the boat. Some of the roughest seas around. They have almost lost a ferry or two between the islands.
    Last edited by Vaughn; 7-May-2021 at 11:53.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  8. #18
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: wildfire season already

    An older fellow who had once been head photographer for the US Navy, and wanted to me to partner in his studio back East, had been shot down three times in choppers in Vietnam while on documentary assignment, and in two of those instances he was the only survivor of the crash, and remarkably himself unhurt each time. But safely back home, he shattered his ankle and twisted his leg much like a ski accident, requiring surgery and multiple pins, during a routine handball game. Something similar once happened to me - as a teenager I had just returned from free-climbing 22 serial running waterfalls that day - none over 50 ft tall, but all potentially fatal - and then broke an arm and got a big scalp cut tripping over a friend in an evening basketball game. As they say, When your number is up, it's up.

  9. #19
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Update. We're now official in red flag conditions comparable to October - first time ever, by a country mile. Several spot fires have already broken out, one ironically caused by a man using his riding mower to get his field in compliance with fire compliance regulations. All it takes is a mower blade hitting a rock and causing a spark, or some chaff getting into a belt and pulley and friction igniting there. It will take awhile before burb dwellers realize that red flag conditions are too late to be mowing.

  10. #20
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
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    Re: wildfire season already

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    Several spot fires have already broken out, one ironically caused by a man using his riding mower to get his field in compliance with fire compliance regulations.
    I hope it remained a small field fire and he learned a permanent lesson.

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