Check Out This Unbelievable Photo of the Southern California Wildfire
Hieronymus Beach. That’s what popped into my mind when I saw Rob Dionne’s unnerving photograph, captured last weekend as he stood on the Santa Monica Pier. The sky choked with a cloud of brown smoke, the babel-like crowds in the foreground, the broodiness of the whole scene—all of it recalled the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, the 16th-century Flemish artist who is best remembered for the dark allegories he created on canvas.
The sun-dampening smoke cloud came from the Sand Fire, a blaze in the Santa Clarita Hills north of Los Angeles that, since it broke out a week ago today, has scorched roughly 38,000 acres, destroyed 18 homes, and forced the evacuation of some 20,000 people. And that’s the less dangerous of the two wildfires currently tearing through California right now. In Big Sur, the Soberanes fire is barely contained as firefighters contend with the rugged landscape of the Los Padres National Forest. Earlier this week, a bulldozer operator died in the course of fire-containment operations there.
Fire ecologists are increasingly confident in their predictions that global warming is fueling wildfires in the American West as earlier springs, hotter summers, and drought combine to make fires more frequent and more intense. The “fire season”—an annual apocalypse once limited to the summer months—is now a year-round affair in some parts of the West.
That’s worth keeping in mind as you take in this amazing pic. What you’re seeing isn’t some glimpse of dystopia to come. Rather, the smoke eclipse over Santa Monica is part of the new normal, an all-too-ordinary scene of life on this smoldering planet.
This article has been corrected since its original posting. Bosch was Flemish, not Dutch.