In 2003, I made a photographic journey to the Salton Sea in search of the decaying and salt encrusted homes that are so often the subject of every photographer that passes through the Imperial Valley. I took along my medium format camera and my trusty 35MM camera for this adventure. It would be another year before I would buy my first digital camera.
Individuals from the local senior volunteer fire company were already on scene and waiting for their equipment to arrive. The smoke began to darken the sky when I captured a lone fireman walking into a wall of thick smoke. Fire companies arrived from Salton City seven miles to the south and from Thermal four miles north as the fire began to spread to the patio of a third home. Because of the remoteness of the town, if the fire was to spread, additional firefighters would have to be called in from the two nearest stations in Mecca, 17 and 26 miles away. These senior volunteer firefighters knew they were the only ones who would be able save this community.
The second home would be lost before the battle to save the community began in earnest. Not knowing how far I would be allowed in, I began to photograph the firefighters as they struggled to control the blaze, expecting to be told to leave at any minute. Instead, I found myself helping the firefighters drag and reposition the heavy fire hoses as they attacked the flames. One minute I would photograph firefighters battling the blaze and the next I would sling my camera over my shoulder and help drag fire hoses where they were needed.