For most of my lifetime, scattered forest fires were out there, occasionally burning up forests in the West, but the threat was manageable. The U.S. Forest Service treated fires as a war, with ground troops and aerial bombardment and a military-like chain of command. Eventually Smokey triumphed and put the fires dead out.
In the last ten years, fires have become a far greater threat. When I took this picture, we were in Alberta, Canada, where the conifer forests have been devastated by Mountain Pine Beetles. Ignited by lightning or a careless camper, these millions of trees burn like hell itself. Here a birch leaf is shown against a setting sun turned into a ball of reddish-orange by choking forest fire smoke, generated by scores of fires across Western Canada. Every breath we took felt like we were chain smoking.
The problem: global warming caused Canadian winters to be warmer, allowing more pine beetles to survive. The infestation of these insects killed trees by the millions. Then, with the hotter summers we have been experiencing due to climate change, the forests dry out, making them tinder for any source of ignition. We have ignored the warnings of global warming for a century, and now we are reaping the whirlwind–and the fire tornadoes.
PRINT INFORMATION: This photograph is printed from a digital file on Japanese Mulberry paper using pigment ink. Matting is done with a thick white cotton rag mat. All materials are archival; designed to last for generations.
LIMITED EDITION: This photographic print is part of a limited edition printed by photographer Lee Rentz. The edition consists of 250 prints, which includes all sizes and methods of printing.