Karnahan knows a lot about wildland fire. For 18 Seasons, he has worked for the USDA Forest Service as a firefighter, Forest Protection Officer, and as a graphic artist and public affairs specialist. His paintings, based on years of personal experience on the firelines, are full of highly accurate detail. They also reflect his emotional commitment to wildland firefighting and to conserving our public wildland treasures. During the 2013 Rim Fire, the artist served as a firefighter in the northern section of the fire near Cherry Lake. In the first week of the fire, Karnahan was responsible in the evacuation of the Cherry Lake and Kibbie Ridge areas. For over a month he also patrolled the interior of the fireline, reporting on conditions and spread.
Karnahan spent most of his Forest Service career in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. He worked as a firefighter and in fuels management on the Eldorado, Plumas, Sequoia, Inyo, and Stanislaus National Forests. In addition, he designed posters for public education on the National Forest System and implemented visual interpretation programs for the Stanislaus National Forest. Karnahan also worked in the design and developement of two ampitheaters now being used on the Stanislaus National Forest. He has also done design and interpretive work for California’s Department of State Parks and Recreation.