It was Thursday night, October 24. I had been home for a short while after working an 8-hour shift in Los Angeles. I turned on the 10pm news and saw the red glow from a wildfire approaching an area called Lytle Creek, not far from where I live. People were evacuating their homes as the fire raced down the mountainside into their neighborhoods.
By dawn Friday, the wildfire had spread close to neighborhoods. It was surreal. A huge wall of flame silhouetted residents who were out of their beds before sunrise to see the firestorm approaching. The air was thick and the sky was a muted orange color. My eyes began to sting and water. My lungs were struggling. I pressed my face into the air conditioning vent in the car and turned it on high. I hadn't slept in almost 30 hours. The Grand Prix Fire was taking a toll.
At one point, a fire captain put his arm around Jim and said, "You should get out of here!" Jim wasn't going to leave without a fight. The neighbors' house in the back erupted into a giant fireball. Jim leaped over a corner of his backyard pool with his garden hose in hand. I ran sideways, keeping my camera pointed at Jim and the giant fireball. The heat was shocking.
I ran to the front yard. The air there was no better. My lungs were burning again, my eyes felt like they had been stabbed with pine needles. My eyelids looked like swollen hot dog buns. My face was black with soot. The entire neighborhood was burning. House after house was aflame.
And this was only Day 2.
On Monday, October 27th, Day 4 of the Wildfires, I photographed one of my most dramatic images. I returned to the northern San Bernardino town of Devore. A place only 24 hours earlier had been consumed by fire. I drove the rural road, passing scorched earth, burned stables and homes reduced to ashes.
As she was talking, I noticed her young son, Wyatt, watching his mom with concern on his face. His sister was nearby sorting through glass figurines she had salvaged from the rubble.
Dressed in blue shorts, a stripped shirt and tennis shoes, Wyatt walked into the smoldering rubble. He had a spirit and innocence about him. A blue handkerchief hung from his neck and smudges of soot were on his face and chins.
He grabbed the burned steel rungs of a small bed frame and said, "This was my bed."
© Gina Ferazzi
Los Angeles Times
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