Photographer recalls fires
Posted Dec. 7, 2007

Dan Sayles
Staff Writer

Karen Tapia-Andersen, a Los Angeles Times photographer and University of La Verne alumna, spoke to an estimated 40 students and faculty in the Arts and Communica­tions Building on Nov. 30.

She presented a slide show of her photos from the devastating wildfires that engulfed much of Southern California in October.

“It’s a lot easier with current technology,” Tapia-Andersen said.

One particularly moving picture captured 12 firefighters wrapped in their fire shelters while surrounded by flames.

Tapia-Anderson captured the image on a ridge off Santiago Canyon Road in Orange County.

The image gave viewers a powerful feeling of how close these men were to the fire, and how lucky they were to be safe.

“It was the first time my editors asked for the raw film,” Tapia-Andersen said,
“And it was hard to, since I could only send a few images at a time.”

Tapia-Andersen described what was happening while she was at the bottom of the hill, while watching the firefighters do what they could.

The trapped firefighters would repeatedly call for air support, and were consistently told it was not available.

The photograph’s importance lies in the fact that no one has captured firefighters deploying their shelters, Tapia-Andersen said.

The photograph sparked much interest among other media outlets.

It also earned Tapia-Andersen interviews on NBC’s “Nightly News,” on NPR and with other news organizations.

Tapia-Andersen graduated from ULV in 1982.

She studied photojournalism with Gary Colby, professor of photography.

“She’s one of those people who can crank out great photos,” Colby said.

Shortly before she spoke on her wildfire coverage, Tapia-Andersen displayed photographs for other L.A. Times and Orange County assignments.

Many of her photos also included the lighter side of the news including a dog sipping water from a fountain and surfers in the ocean.

Tapia-Andersen returned to La Verne by request of Colby and the Society of Professional Journalists, University of La Verne chapter.

Andres Rivera contributed to this story.

Dan Sayles can be reached at

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