Fire is a constant in Southern California, predictable and predicted. Yet its periodic visitations always seem to surprise us with their ferocity, as if the flames eradicate memory along with homes and vegetation. Last week's devastating fires played out in a familiar tableau -- twisting columns of smoke signaling the onslaught; heroic efforts at suppression; reluctant evacuations. Fight and flight, followed by the beginnings of recovery and rebuilding. On the following pages are portraits of men and women whose images helped define the battle -- people who faced, fought and survived the flames.