The Powerhouse Fire in 2013 was aptly named, especially on the day I had an encounter with it. The fire started on May 30 and burned 30,000 acres and destroyed 53 structures (24 of them homes) before it was fully contained on June 10. For days the fire had stayed in the Angeles National Forest, but on its third day it started creeping toward Lancaster, so I headed out to the high desert to photograph the firefight.

At first I was shooting helicopters and air tankers fighting the fire in the foothills, but suddenly the wind shifted and a towering column of smoke began to obscure everything in the distance. As the wind changed direction, the flames hit the flatlands and started racing across the dry grass toward the abandoned farm where I was stationed with my camera.

The fire began a rampage, advancing toward me and a bunch of locals across two miles in about 15 minutes. By the time I jumped into my car to escape, neighbors from the local area had made the decision to free all of their horses, and started leaving. There was just no time to evacuate them. All photos © Lee Reeder.

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