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Burning from the inside out

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How is it that a tree can burn from the inside out? That's what so amazed me when I saw this tree, felled by the Iron Mountain wildfire.

It was still burning, a day after the fire swept through a high mountain plateau above Cañon City in May, destroying a hundred homes.

Wildfire was a force of nature that characterized the summer of 2002. This was the worst fire season on record and the fires in the Pikes Peak region were some of the most devastating.

I was compelled to make a dramatic photograph of this tree. It illustrates perfectly what a catastrophic wildfire is capable of -- an unbelievable force that destroys everything in its path, including a massive tree like this one.

I spent more than a month photographing the Schoonover, Hayman and Iron Mountain wildfires. Though it's almost winter now, I still have my fire retardant gear, helmet, safety goggles, and ankle-high leather boots in my car -- equipment that is required by the U.S. Forest Service if you want to cover a wildfire.

I hope I won't have to use this equipment again, at least not anytime soon.

-- Story and photo by Sean Cayton

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