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Forest fire and USDA Forest Service
Credit & Copyright: Dr. Bruce G.
Explanation: During my field research days in the remote Klamath Mountains of northwestern California, I used to hitch rides on small 4-seater planes that were flown to detect forest fires over the national forests of the region. On one such ride, we discovered smoke plumes racing up the steep hillsides along the South Fork Trinity River, through forests of summer-dry Douglas-fir, live oak, madrone, and tanoak.
For the next 2 hours we flew in tight circles -- "flying recon" (reconnaissance) -- helping to direct a large tanker plane that flew out of Redding, California, loaded with orange fire retardant. The tanker flew dangerously low into the canyon and precisely dropped its precious load onto the flames, helping to avert a catastrophic fire event.
Meanwhile, we continued to circle overhead, in ever-tightening loops that made your stomach drop, flying through columns of dense smoke that filled the cabin with a nauseating scent, badly buffeted by the sudden updrafts created by the whirlwinds of flames beneath us.
After two more tanker runs, the flames seemed to be extinguished and we too returned to our remote airstrip in the mountains, another day successfully locating and halting what turned out to be a human-caused forest fire.
Next week's picture: Robust Lancetooth: A Furtive Keystone?
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