After a two-week trip to Michigan & Wisconsin to see our families and celebrate the 4th with fireworks on the lake, Kirk and I are finally getting back into the swing of things here in California. This includes updating the blog with this long-over due post about our fiery photography session at the residence pictured below.

Yes, I said fiery. As in red-hot flames.

This place looks nice, yeah? Warm and welcoming.

A beautiful, grand entrance.

A bright, contemporary kitchen.

And a relaxed, open living area.

But it was here in this backyard oasis where Kirk nearly ended up a human kabob, seared to perfection.

The real estate agent requested a twilight shoot so we could get a photo that highlighted the “fire & water feature” that was a focal point of the back patio. (The feature can’t be seen in the above photo, its off frame to the left.) Kirk was trying fruitlessly to get the fire part to light. The tenants (can you believe this house was a rental!?) said they hardly ever used the thing, but that it probably needed to be “warmed-up.”

It got warm all right.

Dusk was rapidly falling. While Kirk was downstairs playing pyrotechnist, I was upstairs playing smash-and-grab photographer. This was one of two properties that we had shot back-to-back, and we were on a time crunch. The tenants of this property wanted us in and out, they had kids to feed and bathe, and they could care less about their landlord’s need to sell the house they were living in.

It sucked. I was drained from five hours of squinting behind the viewfinder. This house was gorgeous but I didn’t have a second to take it in. Point, level, shoot. Point, level, shoot.

Meanwhile, Kirk finally received some help from the husband who had just arrived home from work. He was able to get the fire lit, but only a thin tall flame rose from the strip of sand. The fire needed to extend the entire width of the horizontal sand box to be photo-worthy.

The flame was coming from a small section of exposed pipe. Kirk bent down and started pushing the sand off the rest of the pipe so the gas could flow freely. It was hot. In the moment he stood up to light one of the tiki torches, I was on the other side of the house taking this photo of the ground floor bedroom:

All of a sudden, I heard a


a high-pitched scream

and a “Holy sh*t!!

Actually, I only faintly remember hearing all that. I was so focused on taking photos that even after I heard the BOOM I kept right on shooting until I finished the series in this bedroom. Only then–nearly a minute later–did I snap out of my tiny world behind my viewfinder and notice something bad had happened.

The explosion sent stucco and tile flying, hitting Kirk on his back and calves. The real estate agent screamed and the next door neighbor ran over yelling, “What happened?! My windows rattled!”

In the half-hour that Kirk was trying to get the flame ignited, propane was slowly collecting in the space underneath the sand, enclosed by the stucco and tile. With no proper outlet (no flame to feed) it accumulated until the whole pool of gas ignited and BOOM!

This “fire feature” went from being a property highlight to a skeleton needing to be shoved in a closet in less than two seconds.

The scary part was how close Kirk came to roasting his hide. Only moments before the explosion he had been kneeling over the sand, his face just a couple feet from the flames. Thank God he wasn’t hurt.

On the upside, the photos turned out PRIT TEE good. ☼