I’ve photographed dozens of wildland fires in my 37 years as a photojournalist and as a resident of Bodfish, we’ve been packed and ready to go more than once. But the Erskine Fire has wrought devastation like I have never seen, and hope to never see again.

The 2002 Deer Fire started behind my house and burned many structures in the area as the wind-whipped flames ran into our neighboring town of Lake Isabella, causing havoc along its path. Like our neighbors, we prepare as much as possible by clearing brush, pine needles and weeds. We’ve cleaned out a ravine behind the house three times already this year.

It is always good to see the community help one another the way they have, but there is still a lot to do. Rebuilding homes and lives of those hurt by the fire will take time and patience.

Let us reach out to these who will desperately need our help by doing what we can for these friends and neighbors who may have lost a loved one or the home they lived in.

Let us be thankful each day for what we have, especially our families, neighbors and friends.

After news of the Erskine Fire hit across the nation, I was stunned to realize how many friends I had. I got calls from family and friends in Oregon, San Francisco, Sacramento, Morro Bay, Stockton, Reedley and other areas.

I was grateful for the support and as soon as I arrived in Bakersfield and my cell-phone service was restored, I returned those calls. One concerned friend, David, also a photographer, is a friend I have known since 1962, when we were in kindergarten together in Sacramento.

What needs to be done? A lot. Electricity, water and phone service may be out for quite a while. Some will be without shelter, food, money, clothes and other necessary things to survive.

But Friday morning in Squirrel Valley, when I saw the American flag still blowing in the wind, a destroyed structure in the background, I knew we could stand strong, once again, even in tough times.

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