2020 Photo Contest, Sports, 1st Prize

Rise from the Ashes


Wally Skalij

Los Angeles Times

15 November, 2019

With the stadium facilities still unusable, Paradise Bobcats running back Tyler Harrison takes a halftime bathroom break against burnt trees during a game at Paradise High School.

Following a wildfire that devastated their town, members of the Paradise Bobcats from the small rural community of Paradise, California, USA, returned to their football field to revive the team and embark on a new season. The November 2018 Camp Fire was the most destructive wildfire in Californian history. Paradise was almost completely burnt to the ground, and 90% of its population were dispersed to towns and cities across the US, but the fire stopped at the edge of Paradise High School’s football field, sparing it and the surrounding sports buildings. Nearly everyone on the team lost their home, but players began returning when coach Rick Prinz started practices, some commuting for up to 90 minutes to get there. They saw reviving the team as a part of rebuilding the community. The Bobcats went on to have a successful season, playing undefeated until losing the final for the championship at the end of the year.

About the photographer

Wally Skalij

Wally Skalij has been a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times for over 21 years, and was a staff photographer at the Daily Breeze for five years.  Skalij has won n...

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