Incredible Images Show Life for America's Firefighters on the Front Line

Stunning images showing the lives led by firefighters in the United States who battle wildfires across the country have been released as part of a photography competition

The photos were entered into the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Fire Employee Photo Competition 2021, and published by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC.) They show the winning entries and other images submitted across a range of categories including Animals and Vegetation, Aircraft, Fire Personnel and Equipment.

There are over one million firefighters in the U.S., with an estimated 370,000 career and 745,000 volunteer firefighters. Wildfires burnt a total of 7,125,643 acres across the U.S. last year. The figure was 10,122,336 acres in 2020, according to the NIFC.

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2020 witnessed one of the most severe wildfire seasons in U.S. history. National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) data said that a total of 58,950 wildfires occurred nationwide in 2020, with 10.1 million acres burned—the second highest area of land burned by wildfires since 1960.

The number of acres being burned annually in wildfires in the U.S. has increased over the last 40 years. The 10 worst years for wildfires in terms of the number of acres burned have all happened since 2004.

A total of 113 photos entered into the FWS competition were published by the NIFC on Flickr.

Among the entries in the video category was stunning footage of a scooper aircraft flying across the surface of Swan Lake in Alaska to collect water for later use in the wildfire at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. This video was taken by Scott Slavik and was chosen as the winning video from the competition.

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The winner in the fire personnel category from FWS employee Rachel Portwood showed the silhouette of a firefighter against raging flames burning undergrowth amid a fire at the Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge.

Photographs submitted to the competition also showed a more surreal aspect of fighting wildfires in the U.S.

Among the most striking entries in the Animals and Vegetation category was FWS employee Phil Millette's 2018 photograph of a massive inflatable rubber duck floating in a smoke-charred "pumpkin" pool filled with water.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has linked the increasing severity of wildfires in the U.S. to climate change.

Wildfire frequency, the amount of acres burned and length of the wildfire season have all increased according to the EPA and multiple studies. Warmer springs and longer dry seasons are also occurring, while climate change threatens to further increase the severity, frequency and extent of wildfires in the U.S. through higher temperatures and increased droughts.

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During the height of wildfire season last year, President Joe Biden directly linked the increasing severity of wildfires in the country with the threat of climate change in a White House speech.

"Fire season, traditionally, lasts through October," he said. "But with climate change—climate change driving the dangerous confluence of extreme heat and prolonged drought—we're seeing wildfires in greater intensity that move with more speed ... and last well beyond the traditional months of the fire season. And that's a problem for all of us.

"Wildfires are—wildfires are not a partisan phenomenon. They don't stop at a county or a state line—or country line, for that matter."