Friday, July 22, 2016

Citizen Fire Photojournalism 101

Today during the 2 p.m. hour, driven by strong westerly winds, a roadside wildfire along the eastbound/northbound slow lane of the Antelope Valley Freeway (Highway 14) ran hard across an adjacent wash further south, into some low-laying hills even further south, and still further south up into the Angeles National Forest at the western end of the San Gabriel Mountains. Tonight, the Sand Fire has run over the spine of the mountains and as of this posting is threatening Little Tujunga Canyon and environs over on the San Fernando Valley side of the mountain range.

Given the population density in the general area of this incident and the fire being up on a mountain range that is easily viewed from just about anywhere, a wealth of photographs and video footage of this conflagration was captured, some of it even very good or even great. Below are the very best non-fire photographer images of this incident I found on Twitter. To me this is citizen journalism at its best. The images are presented in the order I was approved to use the images by their creators whom I thank with all sincerity. I will continue to add more images as permissions come in as some photographers undoubtedly went to be bed early and won't see my requests until the morning.
*NOTE: remember that these images belong to these photographers and they control their use and retain rights to them unless otherwise specified.

This may be the very best image Everett Orian has ever captured on a camera. How iconic-looking and quintessentially Californian: In-N-Out Burger sign at dusk in an urban setting with double palm trees and a raging wildfire header in the background.
Daniel Scruggs, Jr., shot this very artistic image in Lake Forest tonight showing the setting sun sharing the sky with smoke from the Sand Fire.
Beth Shott shot this image from her neighborhood in the Sand Canyon Ranch area this afternoon early in the fire's progression right after it entered the Angeles National Forest. Note the BAe-146 jet tanker dwarfed by the twisting convection column.
Claudia Peschiutta shot this image along Placerita Canyon Road this afternoon. Note a bit of pyrocumulus cloud poking out of the top of the main convection column.
Matt Hartman shot this image from Glassell Park looking up over the Verdugo Mountains as the Sand Fire heads towards the camera but at a safe distance and many obstacles in between. To me, this massive header is quite reminiscent of a wedge tornado headed towards the camera such as are seen in Tornado Alley in the spring.
Brooke Hansohn captured this image from Burbank with the Verdugo Mountains in the background showing the fire running up into the Angeles NF at the west end of the San Gabriel Mountains and popping quite a bit of pyrocumulus cloud atop the main convection column.
Kevin Gill shot this ominous image from Santa Clarita which shows the fire not obeying the tradition of laying down after the sun sets as most wildfires do. The current red flag conditions effecting this area are manifesting themselves in this rather rambuctious nocturnal fire behavior.
Leonard Elick captured the drama of the early stages of the fire's initial foray onto the Angeles NF in the first couple of hours of the incident. Note the Erickson Skycrane rendered nearly invisible with the background of the smoke.
Carla T. captured this image from Valencia tonight showing both the intensity of the now nocturnal fire as well as the rather impressive extent of the fire over the western end of the San Gabriel Mountains and adjacent hilly areas.
Jose Cruz captured the moon rising through the smoke of the Sand Fire tonight as viewed from Newhall and it well conveys the degree to which the wind is pushing this fire to not lay down after dark as is typical of most wildfires.
Keith Garcia captured this intriguing and ominous view of the Sand Fire from all the way down in Hermosa Beach at the coast which gives one a good sense of how widely viewable this fire is across much of the LA Basin. The water tower reminds me of the "tripods" in the 2005 movie War of the Worlds.
Jack Husted captured this image of the Pasadena area from what I assume was a helicopter. The College Hills are at left and the San Gabriel Mountains are at right and center. The fire has moved up into the western end of this mountain range. I find the weird filtered daylight under a smoke deck most fascinating as there is an apocalyptic aspect to such a scene. Also, I came from Pasadena and find weird images of the place most fascinating. I watched fires burn in these mountains as a child such as the Pinecrest Fire in 1979 and my family was directly affected by the Kinneloa Fire in 1993.
Benjamin Woodle captured a series of amazing images and this one is my favorite. The entire series was taken from the same location in Santa Clarita. I like the backdrop of the nocturnal conflagration with the dark silhouette of the high-tension powerline pylons in the foreground of the image. Very artistic!
Laurenzo shot this moody scene on Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena tonight. I was born just down the way at Huntington Memorial Hospital and have many childhood memories of riding in the car with family down this street and elsewhere in this part of town. My parents used to store family belongings at one of the Public Storage Co. properties in this neighborhood back in the 1970s and I still have the locks they used. It is interesting to me to see my old hometown made to look strange due to this fire's smoke at dusk.
From Santa Clarita, Andrew Dawson shot this intriguing image tonight of the ominous but beautiful night-time wildfire with a bit of moon-made bluish sky above the fire and a visually-pleasing pattern of illuminated neighborhood swirling up the grade towards dark ridges backlit by fire.
Greg Doyle captured this hellish scene from adjacent to the famous Wildlife WayStation demonstrating how far the fire has progressed overnight from being a tiny little spot fire along the Antelope Valley Freeway nearly 12 hours ago.
Alanes captured this moody image from the O.C. at dusk showing the extent of the smoke cloud over the Southland.
Johnny Petillo captured this scene from what looks like the San Fernando Valley which shows how far this fire traveled in less than twelve hours.
Mo Sab took a winner here from the Santa Clarita Valley showing the moon rising over the conflagration and illuminating the smoke cloud top. The mix of fire light, moonlight, and city lights is amazing in this image.
Isaiah Talley captured the essential element of the wind driving this nocturnal conflagration through brush-covered terrain.


  1. Great shots of a unique and terrifying wildfire.

  2. Wow thx for including my picture!! Great blog!