How many chase wildfires?

Curious how many people chase wildfires to produce fire photography or video (forest, prairie, tropical, doesn't matter). I started doing that last June on a 120,000 acre blaze (lightning-sparked), after my Plains trip and prior to Monsoon starting. The image opportunities changed nightly as the firelines moved. One night I drove very far, and a couple days later, hardly any driving was needed. Fortunately, that fire was burning in rugged v-shaped canyon country, no homes were lost as I recall. Finding roads, that was another matter, but I managed. I found it was easier to chase the fire in the wee hours of the morning, 3am or so, in very calm conditions. This year with the rains in the Southwest, a huge fire season is expected. I hope the ones I chase are only wild ones, that don't cross paths with people.

Photographing fires is an interesting experience. Anyone fire-chase?
 
I haven't photographed many wildfires, but they present many opportunities. I did some work with the Red Cross back in West Texas when I was growing up, and that allowed access behind the restriction lines to where the fire was happening. Fire, smoke, and sun allow for many photo opportunities. Throw in the aircraft and the sight of people at work in a dangerous area, and you have a great photo essay in the making.

Even out in West Texas, they wouldn't let the public near one of these fires. If you work as a volunteer with the Red Cross, you can work the canteen helping the firefighters, and get access to all the photo ops you need! Not a bad deal, though you stink at the end of the day.

mp
 
Originally posted by Morgan Palmer
I haven't photographed many wildfires, but they present many opportunities. I did some work with the Red Cross back in West Texas when I was growing up, and that allowed access behind the restriction lines to where the fire was happening. Fire, smoke, and sun allow for many photo opportunities. Throw in the aircraft and the sight of people at work in a dangerous area, and you have a great photo essay in the making.

Even out in West Texas, they wouldn't let the public near one of these fires. If you work as a volunteer with the Red Cross, you can work the canteen helping the firefighters, and get access to all the photo ops you need! Not a bad deal, though you stink at the end of the day.

mp

That has changed somewhat Morgan. Not that long ago I was on a fire dept out here in west TX and we were lucky if we had enough help to fight the fire. Time or two we grabbed a bystander to hold a hose! Big areas and not enough man power unfortunately. Nothing like a little pyrocumulous!

I remember rolling up on a full blown house fire about 3 am one morning and looking up to see a 40 foot fire tornado coming off the top of the house!!! :shock: I will NEVER in my life forget that site!
 
Like David, I am a volunteer firefighter, so it's rare I get an opportunity to take video or photos, as I'm always busy fighting the darn thing!

I do remember one instance of a night-time house fire in the late 90's where this skinny little vortex formed at the left front corner of the fully involved home. It stuck around for what seemed at least 10 minutes. I was just blown away by that thing. It was probably around 20 feet tall and it just stood in the same spot and spun until whatever was supporting it changed character. Then, just as it appeared, it vanished. What I would have given to had a video camera at that moment! It was my only fire related vortex in what's now 10 years of firefighting. And wouldn't you know it, when it came, I had no sort of camera at all. Sigh.

OTOH, I've never personally witnessed one of these in a wildfire around here, as typically, our wildfires aren't like those out west. Most of our forests have few evergreens, it's usually not as dry here, no Santa Ana winds fueling the fires, etc. Therefore the fires just don't seem to burn with the same intensity as say California fires might.

-George
 
When I lived in CA I liked to go out and take a look at the controlled burns - it was always amazing how much further away they were than they looked. They'd look like they were only 1 or 2 miles away - but were really more like 7 or 8.

The most memorable fire I "chased" was the massive pile of tires that caught fire near Tracy CA on 8/7/1998. The plume looked similar to a supercell - with a massive black cloud of smoke boiling upwards - and an anvil-like layer of smoke spreading well downstream from the plume....with ash and soot precipitating downward from this "anvil".
 
I'll occasionally go out and watch controlled burns as well and see if anything photogenic happens. About a year ago while out photographing sandhill cranes I caught the following down near Wood River, NE:
[Broken External Image]:http://www.deasonfamily.net/images/2004_0318_023004AA.jpg

I wasn't able to catch the double vortices which were occuring when I first noticed these features, but you can somewhat see the remnant near the bottom on the left hand side.

Regards,

Mike
 
Nice catch, look at that!

I would like to see a good 40 foot fire-nado too, that would be amazing-looking. I have seen video like that coming out of California. Fires are so bizarre when they make their own wind.
 
I was in Durango, CO during the Missionary Ridge fire a few years ago. Driving outside of town and watching the fire was the hottest (pun intended) thing to do in the evening.
 
I sometimes go after wild fires. Back in 2003 I travelled out to British Columbia for the devastating fire season they had out there. Here's a pic from Oklahoma I took a few years ago. The smoke devil was quite impressive but I didn't have enough time to get the video camera out.

01258a73490d2953e7eaa31b508fe115.jpg

George Kourounis
Toronto, Ont.
www.stormchaser.ca
 
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