Fire Duty

Paul Wellman

“Covering a wildfire from a desk in the safety of an air-conditioned office isn’t as cool as it might sound,” Keith Hamm—pictured above interviewing Mark von Tillow, incident commander for the Whittier Fire—said wryly. But he spent Monday in the Santa Ynez Valley, seemingly on another planet as the green of San Marcos Pass had turned into a black, white, and gray moonscape of Whittier’s path, hazy with smoke and the smell of oily, charred wood. Bumping up the narrow dirt road to Circle V, he thought of the 150 people who rode out the worst of the Whittier Fire: “It’s amazing they all got out of here unscathed.”

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