Southern California lightning

(Originally published at 1:33 p.m. MDT September 11, 2017)

Jeff Zimmerman took these photos September 10 and sent them to us today. Here is how he described the event.

From the deserts to the sea, a wonderful display of lightning. Off the coast near Avalon where hundreds of strikes were recorded with numerous strikes all the way to Tehachapi Mountains. Tejon Ranch and Highway 58 area was bathed in lightning too. A new fire was reported on the Los Padres National Forest, lightning strike near Chuchapate (Sawmill). Possibly a few more isolated storms today, followed by gusty NW winds later this week. The first Santa Ana may set up when snow comes to Montana and offshore flow begins later this week bringing critical fire weather with it. Attached are a few shots from the desert in Neenach, CA (map).

lightning Jeff Zimmerman

lightning Jeff Zimmerman

Thanks Jeff!

Rose Fire near Lake Elsinore, California burns 200 acres

Above:  A firefighter on the Rose Fire near Lake Elsinore, CA, July 31, 2017. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

(Originally published at 8:20 p.m. MDT August 5, 2017)

On July 31 firefighters were able to prevent structures from burning as a wildfire burned about 200 acres just northwest of Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, California.

Jeff Zimmerman, who took these photos, said the fire was reportedly started by the use of equipment behind homes in the 100-degree heat. Jeff said heavy air tankers were brought in to help firefighters stop the spread of the fire as it moved up-canyon through heavy chaparral.

For a while homes along several streets in Lake Elsinore were evacuated as well as locations up the hill to the west in the Cleveland National Forest, including the North Main Divide road, El Cariso Campground, and Los Pinos Conservation Camp above El Cariso Village.

Rose Fire Lake Elsinore CA
A dozer constructs fireline on the Rose Fire near Lake Elsinore, CA, July 31, 2017 Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.
Rose Fire Lake Elsinore CA
A DC-10 drops on the Rose Fire near Lake Elsinore, CA, July 31, 2017 Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

Continue reading “Rose Fire near Lake Elsinore, California burns 200 acres”

Dynamic photos from fire in Lake View Terrace, CA

Jeff Zimmerman of Zimmerman Media took some excellent photos at a fire in Lake View Terrace north of Los Angeles last week. The fire spread quickly during Santa Ana wind conditions and burned about 60 acres before several hundred firefighters from Los Angeles County and the U.S. Forest Service contained it after a two-hour battle.

Thankfully for Jeff, California has a different, some would say more enlightened, way of handling the media at emergencies and disasters than some other areas. There are few restrictions as long as the reporters do not interfere with incident operations. Their rights are protected by California Penal Code 409.5d.

lake terrace wildfire

lake terrace wildfire

lake terrace wildfire

All photos are by Jeff Zimmerman.

Two days in the life of a wildfire photographer

A behind the scenes story of action photography at a fast-moving wildfire in southern California.

Pilot Fire
A dozer tender on the Pilot Fire August 7, 2016. Jeff Zimmerman photo.

Since Jeff Zimmerman retired as a fire captain he spends much of his time photographing fires in California, getting up close and personal with the action. The state has a different, some would say more enlightened, way of handling the media at emergencies and disasters than some other areas. There are few restrictions as long as they do not interfere with incident operations (see California Penal Code 409.5d).

Jeff covered the Pilot Fire that so far has burned almost 8,000 acres in southern California near Crestline. He was there for the first two days, took these photos, and wrote down some of his thoughts.


By Jeff Zimmerman

During the late afternoon of August 7, 2016, I received word from Tod Sudmeier about a fast moving wildfire along Highway 138 and Pilot rock in San Bernardino County. The first reports were that the fire was not accessible so I did not pay much attention to the pager. An hour after the initial alert rang out, the fire was reported to be a 1,000 acres and moving towards Highway 173 in Summit Valley. With this new information I responded from Towsley Park, cutting my nature hike short.

There was sweltering heat once again in Southern California, which appears to be the new norm, as monsoon moisture had moved to the east and relative humidity was rock bottom. The skies above the desert were clear blue but temperatures were soaring to triple digits.

Pilot Fire
PIlot Fire August 7 2016. Jeff Zimmerman photo.

Once again responding up the long trek of Highway 14 as I have numerous times before, I went east onto Pearblossom Highway and over the summit to Highway 138. A large plume of smoke was clearly visible — another major emergency wildfire threatening homes, chewing through decades old brush, threatening human and animal life. Insatiable flames were bearing down on rural ranches as people packed up livestock in trailers to get away from the menacing flames. Air tankers roared into the valley to cut off the advancing fire from the 17525 block of Highway 173. The fire was marching northeast at a rapid clip, dozers frantically working the fire line to halt advancing flames, but with little success.

This had the makings of yet another dangerous fire, probably human caused, possibly by negligence, hopefully not by arson. I continued through the flame front as the fire jumped Highway 173 and into the spillways of Lake Silverwood. Always moving to stay ahead of the flames, only powered by pure adrenalin and Gatorade, I reluctantly moved up canyon, seemingly to dance with the red devil. By nightfall it was evident that the fire was creeping up the steep brush covered desert slopes moving towards Lake Arrowhead up old Highway 173 into no man’s land. Old Highway 173 is now abandoned and will tear the front end off your vehicle off if you attempt to traverse it.

By twilight it looked as if a nuclear bomb had dropped over Summit Valley and ash was raining down on Hesperia nine miles to the north. Curious onlookers were wondering just how far this fire would travel and could it make it into Hesperia proper. Day was turning to night so a few more hours of shooting then it was time to call it quits.

At 11 p.m. I realized I needed to leave the scene, upload a few images, and get a few hours of rest. By 1 a.m. I arrived home, transferred photos into my computer, took a quick shower and went off to bed. Oh, how I know too well, the magic hour of 2 a.m.; finally some badly needed rest on an old lumpy mattress. I always hate those nagging heat cramps being so dehydrated; now the push is on to get fluids back into the body.

At 6 a.m. I was back at my daily chores, watering the crops, charging camera batteries, double-fisting coffee, grabbing a quick bite to eat, and then out the front door. I met Bernie Deyo in Palmdale at Ave S Park-and-Ride and it was off to the races again. The smoke was already billowing along Highway 173 at 10 a.m. We made a quick stop at Highway 138 and 15 freeways to stretch, pick up lunch at Del Taco. Then it was back onto the firelines.

By noon the fire was rolling, boiling behind homes. Structure protection was now in place and San Bernardino County firefighters from Medic Engine 224 were hunkering down behind a home with a charged 1 ½ inch hose line trying to protect the residence from fire. We parked facing out on a small dirt driveway, ready to escape the flames at a moment’s notice.

PIlot Fire Continue reading “Two days in the life of a wildfire photographer”

California: Sage Fire evacuation orders lifted for Stevenson Ranch

Above Photo by Jeff Zimmerman

Jeff Zimmerman of Zimmerman Media took some excellent photos at the Sage Fire southwest of Santa Clarita on the west side of Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles.

The South Zone Coordination Center reports this morning that the fire has burned 800 acres. The evacuation orders for 700 homes have been lifted for the Stevenson Ranch community however the area remains closed for non-residents. The fire started near Sagecrest Circle and The Old Road.

About 1,200 firefighters battled the blaze.

Sage Fire
Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.
Sage Fire
Sage Fire. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

The map of the Sage Fire below was generated at 8 a.m. PDT July 10, 2016 with data current as of 2:25 a.m PDT July 10, 2016.

Map Sage Fire
Map showing heat detected by a satellite (the red dots) over the Sage Fire at 2:25 a.m. PDT July 10, 2016.

Photos from the Shirley Fire

T-01 on the Shirley Fire June 14, 2014
Tanker 01, a BAe-146, on the Shirley Fire June 14, 2014. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

Jeff Zimmerman of Zimmerman Media took some excellent photos at the Shirley Fire near Lake Isabella, California over the weekend. Jeff has been involved in the fire service for the past 28 years and has served as a fire officer, paramedic, hazardous materials technician and as a photojournalist.

Click on the photos to see larger versions.

Shirley Fire June 14, 2014
Shirley Fire, June 14, 2014. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.
T-910 on the Shirley Fire
Tanker 910, a DC-10, on the Shirley Fire June 15, 2014. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

Thanks Jeff!