One Foot in the Black2020 was the worst year for wildfires ever in North America, shattering all previous records for seasonal fire severity. Topping an already extreme trend, where each year brings hotter and drier conditions than the last for longer periods, over 47,000 separate wildfires have burned 8.6 million acres (3.48 million hectares) and counting. The state of Colorado saw the three largest fires in its history; in California five of the largest ten occurred this year, including the first ever “giga-fire” burning more than 1 million acres in a single fire.
Looking back on a year full of turmoil, out-of-control wildfires take center stage alongside socio-political unrest and the coronavirus pandemic. I spent this historic summer working on a US Forest Service wildland firefighting crew, documenting the struggle against one of nature’s most powerful forces. These images offer a look inside life on the fire line, at the brave crews of wildland firefighters, often unseen and under-appreciated, battling record-setting blazes in the untamed backcountry of the US; at those on the front lines of climate chaos, straddling the line between safety and danger, with one foot in the “green” and “one foot in the black.”