Photos of firefighters at a brush fire in Newhall, California

Above: A Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain collects hose so that he can move it further up the hill.

Fire photographer Jeff Zimmerman shot these photos July 30 at a vegetation fire in Newhall, California. Here is what he wrote in an email:

A 10-acre brush fire damaged two apartment buildings yesterday in Newhall along Valle Del Oro and Alder that were above a steep canyon. In sweltering heat firefighters knocked down the blaze in just over an hour. Trying to battle traffic in 100-degree heat, the fire was contained on my arrival so I decided to take to the burnt hillside and grab some portraits of people at the fire. My favorite is a young girl trying to stay cool near the fire hydrant along Valle Del Oro.

A Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain collects hose so that he can move it further up the hill.

A Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain collects hose so that he can move it further up the hill. A Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain collects hose so that he can move it further up the hill.

A Los Angeles County Fire Department Captain collects hose so that he can move it further up the hill.
Jeff Rankin Superintendent of fire camp 11 takes a knee for a quick break while watching his crew put in fire line.

Two fires in Southern California you didn’t hear about

Long time fire photographer Jeff Zimmerman sent us these photos he shot at two recent Southern California fires that you did not hear about. Like many, many others, they were successfully attacked by firefighters and contained before growing into major conflagrations.

The photo above as well as the next three, were from the July 6 Hunter Fire off Sylvan road near Lake Hughes. Jeff got some quick shots with a camera phone of U.S. Forest Service and Los Angeles County personnel working at a vehicle fire that got into the brush at 5:20 a.m. during Red Flag Warning conditions. It burned one acre in addition to the vehicle.

Hunter Fire California Lake Hughes
Hunter Fire at Lake Hughes. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.
Hunter Fire California Lake Hughes
Hunter Fire at Lake Hughes. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.
Hunter Fire California Lake Hughes
Hunter Fire at Lake Hughes. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

On July 8 Jeff was at a fire in Lebec, California as firefighters from Kern County, BLM, USFS and LA County battled a stubborn vegetation fire. It was reported at 1:35 p.m. along Lebec and Lebec Oaks Road which brought a large response including fixed wing aircraft. No structures were damaged but several rural homes had to have structure protection put in place and large animals were evacuated. Firefighters stopped it at 62 acres. Jeff said extremely high temperatures and very low relative humidity have been a big factor in spawning wildfires across the State this week.

The next four photos are of the fire in Lebec:

wildfire Lebec, California
Fire at Lebec, California. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.
wildfire Lebec, California
Fire at Lebec, California. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.
wildfire Lebec, California
Fire at Lebec, California. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.
wildfire Lebec, California
Fire at Lebec, California. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

Jeff Zimmerman photographs fires and writes about them, usually from Southern California.

Prescribed fire at Holiday Lake

One of the objectives of the project is to restore the habitat of the Tricolored Blackbird.

Above: Prescribed fire at Holiday Lake. Photo: Jeff Zimmerman

(Originally published at 7:39 p.m. MT March 1, 2018)

Jeff Zimmerman sent us these prescribed fire photos and the article below. Thanks Jeff.


By Jeff Zimmerman

The Los Angeles County Fire Department conducted a prescribed fire at Holiday Lake Thursday near Neenach in Southern California. The area is critical habitat for the endangered Tricolored Blackbirds that nest early in the spring at the lake. Since it last burned four years ago the bulrush and cattails have choked out the nesting areas for the birds.

Tricolored Blackbird
Tricolored Blackbird. Photo credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Thursday approximately 100 firefighters from the County Fire Department burned about 15 acres of land operated by the West Valley County Water District to restore the habitat.

I have been following the nesting habits of the birds with Don Groeschel of the Audubon Society. We have noticed a decline in the number of birds nesting in the area and asked for the area to be burned some time ago. Finally, taking advantage of the dry winter, the area was burned today under very controlled conditions.

The lake (map) is now dry and hopefully rain will finish putting out all hot spots overnight. Neenach has very strong winds so it is crucial to not allow the fire to escape control lines, while trying to generate enough heat to get rid of the dead fuel. With low winds and relative humidity at 30 percent this morning the lake was baptized with fire. New reeds will grow rapidly in the nitrogen rich soil now to make better habitat for the birds. Nesting season is quickly upon us so it is crucial to get this burn completed in a very narrow window of time.

Prescribed fire Holiday Lake
Prescribed fire at Holiday Lake. Photo: Jeff Zimmerman

The lake was dry during the migration period of Canada Geese this fall. Hopefully the water master will allow the lake to fill again to restore the habitat.

Of course this dry winter is very concerning, bringing the possibility of an early fire season.

Prescribed fire Holiday Lake
Prescribed fire at Holiday Lake. Photo: Jeff Zimmerman

Jeff Zimmerman photographs fires and writes about them, usually from Southern California.

A perspective on Northern California wildfires from the eyes and lens of a fire photographer

On October 14 fire photographer Jeff Zimmerman wrote about what he had seen after spending time on the wildfires in Northern and Southern California. These photos were taken by him.

By Jeff Zimmerman

I would not have believed it if I had not seen it for myself, nearly 5,700 homes destroyed, 34 fatalities, dozens of commercial buildings destroyed in a multi-day wind driven inferno pushed by hot dry diablo winds in the scenic Northern California bay area. Dry offshore winds compressed by the narrow canyons rushed down into Santa Rosa at well over 60 mph, sending swirling fire brands for great distances into residential areas, not normally prone to wildfires, just two miles north of town center. In the upper canyon along Tubbs Road in the timber and brush I could clearly see that a downed power line may have sparked a wildfire fire at night in the winds, but in the City of Santa Rosa which sustained massive structural loss to this intensity it was hard to believe.  The Tubbs Fire raced down Potter Creek Road with alarming rates of spread, within a few hours firefighters estimated the fire at 20,000 acres.

Photo by Jeff Zimmerman
Photo by Jeff Zimmerman

The Coffey Park area just east of the 101 freeway in the City of Santa Rosa, a homey housing tract of single family dwellings is wiped off the map; the Journeys End Mobile Home Park destroyed, Santa Rosa seemingly to take the direct brunt of the LNU fire complex. To the north, Mendocino was hard hit with a family losing their teenage son in the driveway as the mother had to have her legs amputated from running through the fire to escape. How do you ever survive something that horrible? It will be singed in the survivor’s minds forever.

People have underestimated the power of wildfires for years, it won’t happen to me is the mindset of many.  They argue about prescribed burning and air pollution, brush removal destroys habitat, logging is unsightly, the list goes on and on. It takes a massive disaster to get things done unfortunately, better building codes, better water systems, wider roads, fire sprinkler ordinances, better brush clearance is needed; the blue – ribbon panels reports have already explained this after other massive fires in California foothill communities.

Northern California is still in flames, Calistoga, Geyserville, Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Nevada and Butte Counties all have fires, over 160,000 acres, with fatality lists growing by the day, possibly as many 5,700 homes destroyed, 75 cell towers destroyed, and scores upon scores of cars on scores of incinerated streets.  Loved ones missing, their dreams, property and many souls never to return; all destroyed in minutes. It is hard to wrap your mind around it; to examine it is difficult at best, to live through it, terrifying.

Photo by Jeff Zimmerman
Photo by Jeff Zimmerman

A burning wheel chair curb-side set the tragic tone, burnt cars trapped behind downed power poles with car doors flung in the open position still smoldering, roofs on top of hillside homes still burning several days after the main blaze roared through town. A disaster for learning most certainly, but the lessons will come hard. It will take years for families to negotiate with insurance adjusters, to get architectural drawings, negotiate with contractors, get water, sewer and power lines back, some may never try to rebuild at all. For those families who lost everything it will be hard to sift through the debris before having their lots cleared. Many lessons can be learned from the Oakland Hills fire, they will need to have extreme patience. The scars in their minds will never go away, even once their homes are rebuilt, you just don’t forget a fire like this. It will be hard to rise like the phoenix amidst the ash pits of total destruction.

Nighttime fires under sinister diablo winds, very short notification if any to evacuate.  People burned alive in their driveways and furiously burning homes as fires with explosive rates of spread devoured everything in their path.  At least 12 large wind driven urban interface fires have caused 20,000 people to flee in the dark of night as scores of homes were razed to the ground.   Live- stock, pets, wildlife all killed in the flames. Wineries in the foothills destroyed, hospitals with critical patients evacuated in amongst the flames. All too much for the mind to fathom at one time in just a few days.

To the south, Santa Ana winds pushed fires into Orange County neighborhoods on October 9-10 along the 91 and 241 freeways. The fire jumped the 241 Toll Road and ran directly into hillside homes on the bluffs that overlook the valley.  A fire that destroyed 24 homes in an hour right before my very eyes. By nightfall the winds subside and the Canyon 2 Fire slowed to a crawl.  Swirling smoke, fire whirls, ember cast, with fire leap frogging from canyon to canyon. Unbelievable rates of spread and long range spotting, just another day covering spot news.

Setting down the camera on several occasions and picking up garden hoses to extinguish hundreds of spot fires, training police officers on site how to tackle incipient blazes to keep homes from burning, a day to remember.

The fire weather forecast as of this quick writing calls for more Santa Ana winds in Southern California, and diablo winds in Northern California putting the entire State into Red Flag Warning.  I thought I would share some of my thoughts and images from Santa Rosa with you all. We are not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination. Strikes teams of fire equipment are moving up and down the State in order to prepare for the worst. Get ready, Get set, Go! Words to live by today.

Photo by Jeff Zimmerman
Photo by Jeff Zimmerman

Jeff Zimmerman photographs fires and writes about them, usually from Southern California.

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.

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