When a photographer became a volunteer firefighter

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    Two volunteer firefighters cut down a tree with a chainsaw as flames burn around themImage copyright Cam Neville
    Image caption Cam Neville’s photo series is a finalist in Australia’s Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize

    Cam Neville looked out from the truck and caught a glimpse of burning red lines leading to a location called Hellfire Pass.

    It was his first night volunteering with the local fire brigade, and the Australian photographer felt anxious. What was he about to encounter?

    “Certainly I had a flutter of nervousness,” he told the BBC. “Growing up in England, I’d never seen anything quite like that.”

    He did not get near the blaze that night, but since then he has encountered others.

    Australia depends an army of volunteers to protect its sprawling country from devastating bushfires.

    Mr Neville signed up to join them on Queensland’s Gold Coast hinterland, believing it was the only way he could take photographs from the front line.

    Firefighters battle a blaze on a hillImage copyright Cam Neville
    Image caption Volunteer firefighters battle gruelling blazes in Australia each year
    A firefighter walks along a roadside, framed by the red flow of distant lightsImage copyright Cam Neville
    Image caption More than 200 weather records were broken during the nation’s summer

    The inspiration behind his award-nominated picture series Into the Fire was simple: to capture first-hand experiences of men and women fighting fires. This was something TV news rarely offered, he thought.

    “I really wanted to know who these people were,” Mr Neville said. “I think I really needed to experience what they all went through as well.”

    Mr Neville grew up in Brighton before moving to Australia and settling in south-east Queensland.

    “Where we live there are houses that back onto very dense bush,” he said. “The fire threat is very real.”

    Volunteer firefighters start a controlled burn in Australian bushlandImage copyright Cam Neville
    Image caption Fire seasons are getting longer, studies show
    A firefighter, seen in silhouette, attends to a controlled fire with a rakeImage copyright Cam Neville
    Image caption Mr Neville says he has great admiration for fire crews

    Initially he carried two DSLR cameras with bulky lenses, but it quickly proved impractical. Now Mr Neville uses a single camera with a 25mm lens.

    He takes shots in quiet moments between fighting fires.

    The photographer says the project has also brought him practical skills and new friendships.

    “I’ve learned that it’s an incredibly complicated and dangerous business – fighting fires of any type or size – because it’s unpredictable,” he said.

    His admiration for his colleagues has only grown.

    “The call goes out and people answer,” Mr Neville said. “They never know what they’re going to.”

    View the original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-40453523

    Photographs by Cam Neville

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