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Social media lit up by firefighters' pics of the West ablaze

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"I'd like to show people at home the scale of fire, its power and its spectacle. It's not something we get back home in St. Louis, Missouri," wrote Schlake, 31.

"(Fire is) a beautiful, alive thing that makes beautiful photos," said Peterson, 19.

But, Peterson, like Schlake, said he won't sacrifice safety for likes online.

"There are tons more times when I could have taken pictures, but I can't pull out a camera because it's not a safe time," he said.

Fire officials, who have seen an uptick in such postings, warn that the act of focusing on a handheld screen can be deadly when crews are surrounded by danger.

"There have been incidents in the past where firefighters have captured the last moments literally of their lives," said Dave Teter, deputy director chief of fire protection at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"We understand people wanting that digital scrapbook or having that connection with their families, children or spouse when it's at an appropriate level," said Cal Fire spokeswoman Janet Upton. "But if it's a picture of someone with their thumbs up and a cheesy grin and a house burning in the background, this is unacceptable."

No picture is worth risking your life for. 

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