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article imagePhoto Essay: Wildfires — When the woods burn around your homes Special

By George McGinn     Jul 12, 2014 in Environment
Wildfires put communities in danger and interrupts daily activities. A single fire can destroy homes leaving many homeless. And owners sometimes will die in a tragic and futile effort to save their homes.
Introduction
While destructive and uncontrollable, wildfires are necessary to allow the Earth to renew itself. Also, the seeds of some trees can only germinate if they are exposed to a high heat source only obtainable by fire.
In the past, man fought these fires, putting them out before the land could benefit from this necessary part of nature. Now man not only sets fires called controlled burns, they have changed the way they deal with wildfires.
Fighting wildfires today
Today, firefighters will cordon off areas of wildfires, large and small, away from human habitation, and they will let the fire burn out while protecting homes, communities and life. Only when a fire heads in the direction of habitation will they attempt to put the fire out. However, they will leave areas to burn so nature can enrich the soil and allow new growth to occur.
However, this burning is not unsupervised. Often helicopters will drop water in these areas to allow the underbrush to burn, but not the trees. It is often the underbrush, if left unchecked that allows fires to grow out of control, which will allow a fire to burn trees and spread quickly into other areas.
The likelihood of a fire going out of control if the underbrush has already burned off is unlikely, as the fuel for the wildfire has already been removed. This is why fire departments throughout the country perform controlled burns. This removes the underbrush, which is the fuel for starting wildfires.
Wildfires before man
Long before people started fighting wildfires, nature allowed them to burn, renewing the soil and providing more food for the animal populations.
Natural fires would burn and clear out the underbrush and allowing more light to reach the forest's floor and re-nourishing the soil. Wildfires actually help the existing trees grow stronger, as fire is nature's way of cleaning the ground of debris. It also kills insects and disease that destroys trees.
The Photo Essay
From a photographer's viewpoint, wildfires are a beautiful dance of flames and smoke, choreographed by the weather and the men and women who risk their lives containing these fires from destroying homes, towns, businesses and preventing deaths.
Through this photo essay, wildfires and its smaller cousin the brushfire, shows its beauty and danger, and the efforts of the men and women controlling fires larger than 500 acres.
The photos below is a product of following the North Port Fire Department, the Sarasota and Charlotte counties fire departments, and the Florida Department of Forestry over a two-year period in 2006-07.
As a former volunteer firefighter, heavy rescue and EMT-D, I was allowed unprecedented access not normally given to reporters and photographers to all fires in Sarasota and Charlotte counties in Florida.
I am also a subject matter expert in firefighting, heavy rescue and emergency medical aid, having trained, been an emergency responder, and fought fires myself for years.
File photo: Fires left unattended with thick underbrush can set off large wildfires that consume eve...
File photo: Fires left unattended with thick underbrush can set off large wildfires that consume everything in sight.
North Port fire Lieutenant Romeo Carrano looks up at a fully engulfed section of woods with flames r...
North Port fire Lieutenant Romeo Carrano looks up at a fully engulfed section of woods with flames reaching upwards or 100 feet or more. He was able to contain this fire in under 20 minutes. You would never know it from the photos of Lt. Carrano that he has a prosthetic leg he lost in a motorcycle accident. However, this has not stopped him from passing the full firefighter's test, and was also reinstated in the Navy Reserve and served honorably in the Gulf War.
Firefighters race to save a home where the edge of a wildfire is less than 50 feet from the home.
Firefighters race to save a home where the edge of a wildfire is less than 50 feet from the home.
A wildfire closes in on the backyard of a home. All the fire needs is a breeze in the direction of t...
A wildfire closes in on the backyard of a home. All the fire needs is a breeze in the direction of the house to send flames and hot embers to set the house on fire.
This homeowner tries to fight back a fully engulfed forest in his backyard using a garden hose to fi...
This homeowner tries to fight back a fully engulfed forest in his backyard using a garden hose to fight the fire. The hose is no match for the roaring fire, and he was picked up by firemen before his house caught on fire.
The smoke from one of the fires and the heat of the flames distort the sun and almost blots it out.
The smoke from one of the fires and the heat of the flames distort the sun and almost blots it out.
Firefighters hooking up a pump truck to a nearby fire hydrant to continue to battle the flames.
Firefighters hooking up a pump truck to a nearby fire hydrant to continue to battle the flames.
Barely visible through the smoke  a sheriff s helicopter  outfitted with a 300 gallon tank  dumps it...
Barely visible through the smoke, a sheriff's helicopter, outfitted with a 300 gallon tank, dumps its load on top of the fire where fireman can't get to.
A Florida Department of Forestry helicopter just exits the smoke after dumping its bucket of water o...
A Florida Department of Forestry helicopter just exits the smoke after dumping its bucket of water on to an area where firefighters need additional help to fight the blaze.
This Department of Forestry firefighter isn t running from the flames. He is hurrying to see how ste...
This Department of Forestry firefighter isn't running from the flames. He is hurrying to see how steep the embankment is near a bridge. These firefighters bulldoze paths deep into the wildfire to allow the firemen to get their trucks and other equipment in.
North Port Fire Department Lieutenant Romeo Carrano with the glow of a fire burning deeper in the wo...
North Port Fire Department Lieutenant Romeo Carrano with the glow of a fire burning deeper in the woods, lays down some water & chemicals at the edge of a road to keep the fire that's heading his way from jumping over the road.
When a fire is spreading quickly or its about to threaten a home  as in this wildfire it is approach...
When a fire is spreading quickly or its about to threaten a home, as in this wildfire it is approaching a farm, policeman will help to keep a fire from spreading. In this 2006 photo, North Port police officer Noel Coward is pulling a hose to help firemen, already fighting the blaze, so they can extend the reach of the water.
A fireman ensures that everyone leaves this house as a fire in the back is about to overrun it. A wo...
A fireman ensures that everyone leaves this house as a fire in the back is about to overrun it. A woman is holding her dog as the fireman helps other occupants. The firemen were able to stop the fire before it reached their back yard and saved the house.
Families near a wildfire prepare to evacuate their homes while firemen with their truck is down the ...
Families near a wildfire prepare to evacuate their homes while firemen with their truck is down the road battling the blaze.
More about photo essay wildfires, Wildfire, brushfire, Home fire, Firefighters
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