Fighting the Whitewater-Baldy Fire: A La Jicarita Photo Essay

Text by DAVID CORREIA

Photos by JAKOB SCHILLER

Click to enlarge

The Whitewater-Baldy fire started started on May 9, 2012 in the Gila National Forest in western New Mexico. The fire started as two different fires. The Whitewater Fire was first detected on May 16, a week after lightning strikes had ignited the smaller Baldy Fire (Click on the map to the left to see the fires progression during May 2012).  Two weeks after the fires merged to become the Whitewater-Baldy complex fire, Wired blogger and photographer (and La Jicarita editor) Jakob Schiller spent a day photographing the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew from Prescott, Arizona while they tried to contain what by then had become the largest fire in New Mexico history. All photos are by Jakob Schiller.

A firefighter waits to see if flames set during a burnout operation take off.
The rugged terrain in the Gila made firefighting almost impossible
A firefighter uses a drop torch to set backfires. Back burning is a common tactic in wildland firefighting. When fires are too remote to fight with traditional firefighting tools and tactics, firefighters remove fuels as a way to reduce the spread. By reducing the amount of flammable material they create a natural break that can stop the spread of the fire.
In wildland firefighting, water is for drinking.
Firefighter Brandon Bunch takes a break
Fire burns along a hillside as firefighters get in position
A firefightter cleans up after the fire has moved on
Flames leap from the understory to the canopy. By the time the Granite Mountain Hotshots were on the scene, the fire was already the largest in New Mexico history having burned more than 250,000 acres.


For more photos on Whitewater-Baldy, see Schiller’s essay: On the Ground at the Start of Fire Season

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6 comments

  1. I have not seen such descriptive views of fighting fires in New Mexico. Thanks to the photographer, Jakob Schiller, and thanks, La Jicarita.

  2. These are incredible photos, Jakob. It’s amazing to see how, even with the dedication of these fire crews, how helpless humans are against natural disasters…

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