California Burns

Steve Whitby

photo of Steve Whitby cropped 2
My father taught me how to process negatives and prints in a darkroom when I was eight years old and from then on I was hooked. I started taking photos of air tankers in 1964 as a kid with a Kodak box camera until I bought my first 35mm camera back in 1968 and have been shooting ever since. Although I retired eight years ago from my “bread & butter” career as running an engineering department for a water municipality, most of my free and spare time was either spent over fires or in fires shooting video and stills.

From 1993-97 I did AD work (as designated) for the US Forest Service (and the ATGS (Air Attack Group Supervisor) shooting video and stills over fires out of Forest Service Air Attack 12 & 07 as well as CDF Air Attack 310 & 410 From their joint base at Ryan Air Attack in Hemet CA. When the Forest Service built their new tanker base at the San Bernardino Airport (formally Norton Air Force Base) because of my full time career commitment I wasn’t able to drive that distance all the time as well as every weekend, so in 1999 I decided to go through the training as a wildland firefighter (still part time of course) and earned my Red Card in order to shoot video and stills on the ground for the Forest Service Division Chief (Div. 5) on the BDF Idyllwild Ranger Dist.

In 2011 I was interviewed for a part time volunteer position with Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire as a photographer, that lasted till 2013 when I was asked by Phos-Chek, (the company that manufactures the fire retardant that’s dropped from air tankers on fires) if I was interested in shooting on the fire line for them (A paid position), and that’s what I’ve been doing during fire season ever since.

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