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.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

8 thoughts on “Many of the photos circulating of wildfires in the Amazon, are not of the Amazon”

  1. The McColgun Elk Bath photo is McColgun’s intellectual property. He did not surrender commercial rights to the images. When it’s used for commercial purposes he is owed money. Government use is free use.

    1. Actually that is incorrect. He was working as a BLM employee when he took that photo.

      Also, the caption should be changed that he was a BLM employee, not a Forest Service employee.

  2. If you look thru the 4 photos on Wikipedia, the high resolution photo #4 correctly states he was a “Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Fire Service, Alaskan Type 1 Management Team, public domain”.

  3. I am shocked and horrified that the fires are burning nearly out of control. I lived in Bolivia as a child and think of it still as my second home. I hope and pray the fires are put out or under control. This started because cattle ranchers want more land so they can sell more beef to American fast food companies, largely. They got out of control and now look at what we have. Shocking and frightening. I’ll stop eating beef if it will solve the problem. I like beef, but I like breathing more.

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