Heading Fire

Wade Tract, Arcadia Plantation, Thomasville, Georgia
Oil on canvas
48 x 72 in. (121.9 x 182.9 cm)

Private collection

With a hearty gust of wind behind it, a head fire pushes through the wiregrass and gallberry of the Wade Tract, burning with vigor where longleaf pine needles have fallen more plentifully. Moving at almost a walking pace, it will soon slow to a crawl upon the return of lighter winds.  With less wind behind it (oxygen), and when it reaches open areas with less needle cast (fuel), the burn may become patchy, allowing new seedlings to escape the effect of this year’s flames.

On the same day, from a different location in the burn unit, the wind can be seen having a very different effect in Backing Fire.

The privately owned Wade Tract is one of very few remnants of the original longleaf pine ecosystem that once occupied 90 million acres stretching from Virginia to Texas. It is often referred to as a “fire forest” due to its reliance on frequent burns such as the prescribed fire depicted here. More about that dynamic and the distinctiveness of this landscape is included in the description of Heading Fire’s sister painting, Backing Fire.


Studio painting, May 2013, based on photographs from April 24, 2011.

Exhibition History