Dusty Vaughn was so close to last year's massive Rim Fire the day it began spreading uncontrollably that he could see its flames and feel its heat.
As the recreation specialist for the Stanislaus National Forest's Groveland Ranger District, Vaughn captured dramatic photographs of the inferno, some of which were published by various media outlets.
"It was exciting," said Vaughn, 31. "I felt like I was helping to tell the story of the Rim Fire. That really encouraged me because this was my first fire."
While the Rim Fire quickly became the largest recorded wildfire in Sierra Nevada history, Vaughn witnessed first-hand the fire's aftermath in the seasons that followed: He posted signs during last fall's hazard tree removal, helped shovel winter mudslides and witnessed an explosion of springtime wildflowers.
Now, he's working to secure funding for new fire-related interpretive signs at the popular Rim of the World overlook.
"It's such a great spot because the fire burned as far as you can see from there," he said.
Vaughn developed a love of nature while growing up in Nashville, Tenn. He would go on backpacking trips in the Smokies, hike along the Appalachian Trail and even became an Eagle Scout.
"I always wanted to work in the outdoors," he said.
For the complete story, see the Aug. 14 edition of The Union Democrat.