This blog is off the beaten track of my usual, but I am submitting this story with pictures to a fireman’s magazine and wanted to run it by my blog too! This is in the category of photojournalism and being in the wrong place (?!?) at the right time.
San Bernardino county water-drop helicopters and fire engines respond to a fire in the Butler Peak area of the San Bernardino Mountains near Big Bear Lake. At about 2 pm. on September 1, 2007 we sat on the deck of our friend’s forest cabin on the North Shore of Big Bear Lake having a sunny afternoon of relaxation when we started to see smoke come up over the mountain ridge behind us. Not 10 minutes later we heard sirens and helicopters surrounding the area in response to the smoke. A fire truck sped by on highway 38 near the Big Bear Lake dam and at about the same time a fire helicopter flew very close over the top of the cabin where we were.
We hurried down the shore of the lake with cameras in hand to get rare close-up shots of these magnificent water-drop helicopters lowering to the lake surface and picking up water with the special hose that drops down from the center of the body of the “beast”. As the helicopter lowers the beating propellers stir up massive mist clouds around it, giving it a surreal look as if it appears out of a dream. After filling up with water it takes off in a circular pattern to head back up the canyon to the ridge where the fire is gaining ground. Other helicopters, different shapes and sizes but with the same equipment, came to gather the water and speed off toward the fire, only to return a few minutes later to do it again. This dance went on for hours and only near sunset did they taper off their onslaught of the fire. These images represent that afternoon of fear, wonderment and a rare opportunity to see firefighting up close and personal. These machines and the firefighters who fly them are an incredible and vital tool for fighting our fires here in southern California. To see more of these images go to my portfolio and click on Fire Images.