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The Rocky Fire burns overnight near the town of Clear Lake, California. Hot and dry weather caused the fire to burn actively at night, threatening homes and downing power lines. At least three home were destroyed. PHOTOS BY STUART PALLEY

Photo project documents wildfire, effects of climate change


BOZEMAN – Stuart Palley’s photographs are haunting. They trap you in a world of fear and sparkling fire, intense colors and awe. Blending journalistic-type reporting with art, Palley’s photo project, “Terra Flamma: Wildfires at Night,” is five years in the making and focuses on raising awareness about fire management, drought and climate change.

On June 13, the Los Angeles-based photographer presented his work, “Terra Flamma,” Latin for “earth on fire,” as a large-format exhibition at the Bozeman home of Wes Siler and Virginia McQueen. Approximately two-dozen people turned out for the event, and from a lively din of conversation it was clear his images were sparking thought.

“They’re breathtaking and dangerous and sad,” McQueen said. “These are beautiful photographs. Stuart draws in your eye but then the curiosity leads to something else: What’s the consequence of megafire?”

The Rough Fire burns in the Sequoia National Forest on Aug. 13, 2015. The fire had burned over 10,000 acres and was expected to grow.

While the majority of Palley’s work is from California, he says many of the scenes are representative of megafires that could break out—or already have—across other areas of the U.S.

“This is happening in our backyards,” Palley said, describing the intense fires that have raged in the last decade as the American West trends hotter and drier at a time when many are building homes in the wildland-urban interface. “This is an acute effect of climate change. As every year goes on, they get more intense.”

Palley said that with an average of nine more high-fire-danger days each year, it’s critical for communities to be fire-wise. Specific suggestions for homeowners in Big Sky are available on page 11 of the Real Estate Guide.

“The responsibility of every homeowner is to have a defensible home,” he said.

The Lake Fire burns in the San Bernardino National Forest on June 19, 2015. By evening, the fire burned over 13,000 acres and was 10 percent contained.

Visit for more information about Palley or to view more of his work.

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