Career wildfire photographer was shocked by what he saw this summer in California

Palley lake fireStuart PalleyOne of Palley’s images from the 2015 Lake Fire in San Bernardino, California.

Fire-chasing photographer Stuart Palley has seen his share of wildfires, but this year’s extreme season has blown him away.

After photographing the Lake Fire in San Bernardino, California in June 2015, he commented that this year’s devasation shocked him.

“I’ve never seen destruction like that from a fire in my career, and I’ve shot about 60 wildfires,” Palley told Business Insider.

The numbers back his anecdote up: 9.08 million acres of land has burned nationwide this year, as of September 29.

While the wildfire season is technically over, there are still seven fires burning in five states. 2015 could still break the 2006 all-time record of 9.1 million acres burned in a year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Palley captured some stunning images of the Lake Fire:

In the shot below, a firefighter attempts to stop the Lake Fire from spreading. By the time it was contained, the Lake Fire destroyed more than 31,300 acres and forced residents to flee their homes.

And Palley’s observation that things are getting worse is right. During his lifetime, the number of acres burned in wildfires has steadily increased. The average number of acres burned in wildfires during a 10-year period went up from 3.2 million between 1985 and 1995 to 7.6 million in 2005 to 2014.

The worsening wildfires have motivated Palley to keep taking photos. He hopes viewers will educate themselves about the extensive damage of wildfires can yield on the planet, and his home state.

Read more about Palley’s wildfire-chasing work in this slideshow and check out his Instagram account, @stuartpalley.

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