Josh Edelson said he was just trying to take photos of firefighters battling a wildfire in Butte County, but the freelance photographer ended up capturing much more.
Edelson's images of the Wall Fire were taken at the time when the now 5,800-acre blaze was just starting. He shared them on his Facebook page, and they have since gone viral.
One of his photos depicts three firefighters saving an United States flag from an Oroville home as flames from the wildfire approach. The attention-grabbing image has been shared from Edelson's Facebook page more than 4,000 times.
"At the time when I took the photo, I didn't think much of it because often I don’t really feel the emotional impact of something until after, when I look back on the photo," the Agence France-Presse photographer said.
After the firefighters created a defensible area around the home to protect it, Edelson said they noticed the flag.
"I was there then, and they had a very brief discussion on whether they wanted to do something with it, and then it just happened," he said. "They just went up there and one guy lifted up the other guy, and the third guy came to help out and they grabbed the flag and took it down."
He said the attention for the photo has been a bit overwhelming, but it's reinvigorating Edelson to continue doing his often dangerous job.
"As a photojournalist, our objectives are primarily to tell truth – to tell the story – and secondarily, to create art," he said. "Looking back, I can see why the image is kind of well received because... our country has kind of been going through a lot of negative stuff lately. It’s nice to have a sort of symbolic hero moment to raise morale, even if it’s just a little bit. "
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