Too Close to Home: Flames Licking at our Heels

The air is so thick with smoke in Portland, Oregon USA from wildfires burning all around us this summer, that I can feel it in my eyes and throat. A light dusting of ash is visible on lawn furniture and cars.

A couple of days ago, one of our most beautiful gems, the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, erupted into a human-caused inferno. The blaze is now more than 20,000 acres and has merged with another fire. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of fires burning all across the American west from Oregon to Colorado. I’m reminded of the devastating fires affecting other parts of the world, in part due to extreme heat, like Portugal.

Fire is part of the natural cycle and the forests will rebound eventually. But it’s still sad to see the loss. And the increasingly hotter, more dangerous weather brought on by climate change here — as well as more intense weather elsewhere — is troubling. Having worked on wildland fire crews in the past, I know the forest isn’t “gone” and that it will rebound. But a lot of damage has been done and I feel for people who have lost homes and land as well as the ecosystems that will be disrupted for years to come.

It will be interesting to watch the shifting dialogue about climate change after this summer of fires and floods; runaway infernos and monster hurricanes.

Here are a few infrared images I took while hiking in the Gorge last week.




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