Here's what an advancing forest fire looks like, if you ever were curious. A member of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology posted the video clip on YouTube. It shows dozens of people in a fire camp on the Boise National Forest watching a roaring wall of flames bear down on them. (The Cascade Complex fire, having scorched 158,000 acres, remains only 11 percent contained.)
Timothy Ingalsbee, executive director of FUSEE, criticizes fire commanders for allowing these people to remain so close to the flames and smoke: "This burnover incident was completely minimized by the Forest Service and massively under-reported in the news media. Most of the personnel in fire camp are not firefighters -- they are cooks, accountants, and other support personnel, as well as the Incident Command Team (i.e. "fire bosses"). These folks should not have been anywhere near the advancing flames, but this is a sign that the Idaho fires are completely out of control.
"It is important to note that the burnover was the result of a conscious decision by the Incident Command Team to ride out the advancing headfire and 'stay-in-place.' It was not an accident. Even though no one was immediately injured by the fire, nearly everyone is sick with lung infections from sitting in a depressing burned over fire camp with a thousand-foot layer of smoke hovering over them during every morning's air inversion."
This video is amazing - the smoke and wind right around 2:40 reminds me of 9/11 coverage. Why the heck weren't these people evacuated? The encroaching fire poses an obvious danger, but more importantly, that much smoke can't be healthy. The YouTube description says, "While no one was injured during the fire, the camp has remained in the same place for over a week since the fire, and many of the personnel in the camp have since become sick from smoke inhalation."
Related thought: I've thought about spending a season or two as a forest fire fighter before, but I'm not in very good shape. I leave you with this amazing - and sad - photo from a Montana forest fire, taken by John McColgan of the Alaska Forest Service.