Smoke billows into the sky as a jet tanker swoops perilously close to mountainous terrain to disperse fire retardant on an erupting blaze. This scene, captured by a webcam overlooking California’s Holy Fire, offers a sober glance of the state’s horrific wildfire season, which is far from over.
Surpassing 9,600 acres burned as of Thursday morning, the fire raging through the Santa Ana Mountains between Los Angeles and San Diego has grown substantially over the past day and may soon threaten homes in Riverside County.
The fire is burning through steep, mountainous terrain filled with dried-out shrubs that are ideal fuel for the blaze.
The Holy Fire is one of about three dozen significant fires burning across the West Coast, with a majority in California. In the Golden State alone, active fires have burned roughly half a million acres in recent weeks.
California’s biggest blaze, the Mendocino Complex fire in Northern California, is now the state’s largest on record.
There are so many big fires, and there is such a massive air assault against them, that even automated cameras are creating breathtaking photos like the one featured here.
Enormous firefighting tanker planes are on the front lines of the assault. The jumbo jets have seen increased usage in recent years as fires become larger and more common across significant swaths of the country. In many cases, it is a DC-10 flying by, but there are also 737s and even a 747 among the air fleet.
The webcam still from the Holy Fire, from the University of California at San Diego, is just one of a number of stunning images capturing these flying tankers. Below are several of the best, mostly from the Holy Fire, but the last comes from Northern California.