The Face of FireFire fascinates me, attracts me, and terrifies me all at once.

I enjoy sitting with others around a campfire or in front of a fireplace mesmerized by the darting, teasing tongues of fire, the changing colors, and cozy glow.

A fire’s warmth and beauty can enchant and sustain us, especially on a cold winter day. How romantic it is to snuggle with a loved one in front of the fire! The blazing Yule log brings good cheer to our December Holidays.

But fire has another face, ugly and terrifying. How often do we turn on the news to hear about a fire’s wanton path of destruction, consuming homes or acres of vegetation without mercy for the life that is imperiled or too often lost?

It is no wonder then that humans seek to prevent or control fires and have a history of doing so. I grew up with Smokey the Bear’s friendly (but also stern) face saying, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!”

He pointed and looked right at me! I was sure that I would wind up as Smokey the Bear food if I ever played with matches or left a smoldering campfire unattended.

While Smokey still delivers his valuable message, fire ecologists now tell us that fire prevention is not the whole story. In fact, many ecosystems need fire. The absence of periodic, small fires may lead to bigger, hotter fires, and unhealthy ecosystems. This is a quite a paradigm shift.

Now, ecosystem management may include the use of fire as a tool. This is sometimes called controlled burning, but a better term is prescribed burning since fire acts as a prescription for maintenance of a healthy ecosystem. (See article: Benefits of Prescribed Burning, by Alan J. Long, written for the University of Florida, IFAS Extension.)

On February 07, returning home from a field trip with the South East Volusia Camera Club, we spotted billowing, gray smoke not too far from our destination and took a side trip to see what was going on. We found a prescribed burn in progress to clear underbrush in a densely forested area in the Oak Hill area, Volusia County, Florida.

Since the fire was close to the roads and did not seem too intense, we left the relative safety of the car to take pictures, some of which I share with you here.

Although this fire seemed mellow, (or dare I say controlled?), when we saw it, these pictures reveal to me a perhaps more sinister face, as if to whisper, _________. Well, I will let you fill in the rest, Lyn "All hope abandon ye who enter here!"

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