Many of the photos circulating of wildfires in the Amazon, are not of the Amazon

Bolivia Fires
An actual photo of some of the wildfires in Bolivia, as seen from the 747 Supertanker. It was posted by Global Supertanker August 24, 2019.

According to an article at CNN, “Some of the most-shared images of the Amazon rainforest fires are old or are not of the Amazon”. Their article includes many examples of incorrectly attributed photos.

One of the most glaring examples is very familiar to many wildland firefighters and is often called the “Elk Bath” photo (below). It was taken August 6, 2000 by John McColgan, a Forest Service employee who was assigned as a Fire Behavior Analyst on a fire in the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana. It was taken as part of his official duties and is in the public domain.

Elk Bath photo
Elk Bath photo, taken August 6, 2000 by John McColgan, a Forest Service employee who was assigned as a Fire Behavior Analyst on a fire in the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana.

Below is where the Elk Bath photo was posted on Twitter. It is at the bottom-right. The top-right photo, according to CNN is from a 2018 wildfire in Sweden.

The photo at the top of this article is a legitimate photo of some of the fires in Bolivia, as seen from the 747 Supertanker. It was posted by Global Supertanker August 24, 2019. The air tanker arrived in Bolivia at 1:37 a.m. local time Friday August 23 at Viru Viru International Airport outside the capital city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra and began sorties on fires later in the day.

The two photos below do not show fires, but they were also taken from the 747 Supertanker showing scenes in Bolivia. They might give us a glimpse of some of the fuels and terrain involved.

Bolivia 747 Supertanker
Taken from the 747 Supertanker in Bolivia and posted August 24, 2019. Global Supertanker photo.
Bolivia 747 Supertanker
Taken from the 747 Supertanker in Bolivia and posted August 24, 2019. Global Supertanker photo.

“You’ll get to carry fire”

Looking at the experience of prescribed fire

Prescribed fire Big Cypress National Preserve
Prescribed fire at Big Cypress National Preserve video. Screenshot from NPS video below.

I assumed this third film in a series about prescribed fire at Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida would be strictly that, prescribed fire. But it took an unexpected turn highlighting the unheralded and under-appreciated federal employees — firefighters — without whom there would be no fire management program in the National Park Service and several other agencies.

In the film there is no off screen narrator that drives that point, but instead there are interviews with two firefighters who obviously cherish the work they do. As a former firefighter, (is anyone ever a FORMER firefighter?) I could relate to the sentiment. They didn’t mention the money they make, which is a fraction of what they could make doing more, uh, normal work. But they conveyed the satisfaction in what they are accomplishing, both personally and for the natural resources.

“We’re here to manage the land and we have that responsibility as a human to do that.”
Megan Hurrell, Firefighter and Fire Effects Monitor at Big Cypress National Preserve

I don’t know if it was one of the producers’ objectives, but the film could serve as an effective recruitment tool.

“I went to my first fire and I knew right then. It’s kinda like when people say you meet the love of  your life it was kind of like that. It was — wow! That was good work, that was hard work. I’m filthy. I feel good about myself, I’m doing something that’s right. I’m comfortable with that and I’m in awe with it.”
Jay Thatcher, Burn Boss at Big Cypress National Preserve

When I was a Fire Management Officer and Burn Boss occasionally a high-ranking person in the agency would attend a prescribed fire that was in progress. If they were near the action they wore personal protective equipment and I often put a drip torch in their hands and let them participate in ignition, under close supervision, of course. Sometimes it was difficult to get the drip torch back. They had a different perception of prescribed fire after that experience.

Recently a mom was encouraging her eight-year old son to serve in their church as an acolyte, with part of the duties being lighting candles. She told him, “You’ll get to carry fire,” then she smiled and looked at me.

For Megan and Jay in South Florida it’s in their job description. Sometimes wildland firefighters hear, “You’ll get paid in sunsets.” Well, that, and you’ll get to carry fire.

You can view the video here.

Long Valley Fire burns hundreds of acres on Calif/NV line north of Reno

Long Valley Fire, August 25, 2019
The sun rises on the Long Valley Fire, August 25, 2019. Photo by Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District .

(UPDATED at 9:42 a.m. PDT August 25, 2019)

At 8:37 a.m. PDT August 25 the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District reported that the Long Valley Fire had been mapped at 2,438 acres and all evacuations had been lifted.

HERE is a link to a map of the fire produced Sunday morning.


(UPDATED at 7:03 a.m. PDT August 25, 2019)

As the sun was rising Sunday morning the camera at Fort Sage looking south to the Long Valley Fire did not show any significant columns of smoke. The fire is north of Reno, Nevada between Highway 395 and Red Rock Road. (see map below)

Long Valley Fire
The Long Valley Fire, looking south from the camera at Fort Sage at 6:38 a.m. PDT August 25, 2019.

The Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District reported at 7:10 p.m. PDT Saturday that one primary structure and multiple outbuildings burned. At 8:38 p.m. PDT the District said the fire had burned about 1,500 acres and “at least 50 to 75 homes have been impacted” by the fire.

The closure of Red Rock Road was lifted by 12:30 a.m. Sunday. Electrical power may still be shut off in some areas.

At 12:31 a.m. Sunday the evacuation order was still in effect.

The video below shows a Very Large Air Tanker, a DC-10, making  a downhill retardant drop Saturday evening on the fire.


(Originally published at 6:49 p.m. PDT August 24, 2019)

Long Valley Fire
Long Valley Fire as seen from the camera at Fort Sage at 5:23 p.m PDT August 24, 2019.

The Long Valley Fire started Saturday afternoon north of Reno along Highway 395 about two miles south of the north end of Red Rock Road. Pushed by a strong wind it spread to the northeast toward Red Rock Road. The Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District is working to keep the fire west of the road.

Continue reading “Long Valley Fire burns hundreds of acres on Calif/NV line north of Reno”

Traffic camera keeps recording while surrounded by fire

Utah traffic camera fire swept over
The Utah DOT camera at milepost 122 continued to transmit while it was engulfed by a wildfire. Screenshot from the video below.

A highway traffic camera kept transmitting as the Milepost 122 fire swept over the site. It happened 10 miles north of Beaver, Utah on August 22 as the Milepost 122 Fire burned across Interstate 15.

The fire burned about 1,200 acres and closed the Interstate for a while.

Utah milepost 122 wildfire
Milepost 122 fire. Photo credit: Stephanie Schenck.

This is why you don’t want to be under a retardant drop

If that video does not convince you — last year a firefighter from Utah who was working on a fire in California was killed when a retardant drop uprooted an 87-foot tall tree that fell on him.