Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New News From an Old Fire

The Old Fire started on October 25, 2003 in the foothills just above the city of San Bernardino, Ca. Started during a Santa Ana wind event, it exploded into a raging conflagration that consumed almost 1000 homes and over 90,00 acres of chaparral and forest. Six people died as a result of the fire. mostly from heart attacks while fleeing or fighting the flames.

 Press Enterprise Photo by Greg Vojtko

The fire was determined to be an arson caused fire, Two men were seen in a van near the point of origin. They were identified and one was arrested for lighting the fire almost six years after the crime. The other was killed by gunfire three years after the fire. The convicted man, Rickie Lee Fowler was sentenced to death a few days ago. As a sidebar, a 25 yr. old man was convicted of recklessly starting a second fire while driving in brush in order to get a better view of the Old Fire. That smaller fire eventually burned into and merged with the Old Fire. It sucks to be him.

 Press Enterprise Photo by William Wilson Lewis III

As a result of the recent conviction and sentencing, The Press Enterprise (our local rag) dug into the archives and pulled out some of their best photos of the incident. I looked them over and found them to be of the PE's usual quality work. I love good fire photography, It's good to see shots by people who can really shoot.

The Old fire brings back a lot of memories. I watched it take off from 40 miles away. I was teaching a wildland interface class in a wildlife preserve and we could see the header building as we walked through the brush. It was an amazing sight. Though it brought home what I was trying to teach the cadets, it was also a distraction. It's hard to stay focused on Schmoe when the thermal columns from two major wildfires are building on the horizon.

Some friends of mine were on that fire, others lived in the fire zone and fought to save their own homes. Ash rained on our house for a few days, our days were tinted a golden orange hue that only the drift from a major wildfire can produce.

As often happened during events such as these, my lot was to stay in town and back-fill positions created by strike teams fighting the fire. The pay is the same and it's usually a better working environment.

Click on the link and check out the pics. For those of you lucky enough not to have to experience these things, it's pretty amazing. Great photos too.

Thanks for reading,


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