Tens of millions of people across the West are facing the reality of life in a flammable landscape. When we hear about communities getting wiped out by wildfires, what’s actually going on? Why is it happening? And, what can we do about it? Learn more now on the final episode of Fireline.
The Wildland Urban Interface, or WUI, is where forest and homes meet. It’s the fastest growing land use type in the nation, and also where one in three homes across the country are situated. What’s it mean to live in the WUI, where the stakes of wildfire are higher than anywhere else? And why is this area so vulnerable to fire?
There are more than 30,000 people who fight wildfires in the U.S, and about 400 firefighters have died on the job over the last two decades. As fire seasons get longer and fires become more devastating, the physical and mental toll on firefighters themselves is also growing. Learn more now on Episode 05: Burnout.
For millennia, wildfire was part of life in North America. Indigenous people used it for tradition and ceremony, to improve the health of ecosystems, and to assist with hunting and gathering. But the arrival of white settlers marked the beginning of an era in which that knowledge about fire and its role on the landscape was suppressed. Now, Indigenous groups across the country are working to revive tribal relationships with fire. Today, hear one story about bringing fire back to the land on the Flathead Reservation in Northwest Montana.
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The connection between humans and fire goes back millions of years. What started with campfires and cooking grew into a burning addiction that catalyzed the Industrial Revolution and now shapes nearly every aspect of our society. Now, our ongoing reliance on fire in its many forms is changing the climate with explosive consequences for wildfires — and much more.
Transcript and links
In 1910, a wildfire the size of Connecticut engulfed parts of Montana, Idaho and Washington. Ed Pulaski and his crew were among the many people trapped by the enormous blaze. The Big Burn, as it came to be known, helped propel a culture of fire suppression that still persists in many forms. What does that massive fire mean for the way our society deals with the wildfires of today?
When Lily Clarke arrived at the August Complex Fire, it was a fire of sensational size. The blaze eventually burned more than 1 million acres, becoming the largest recorded wildfire in California history. Across the country in 2020, flames charred an area nearly 5 times the size of Yellowstone National Park — the largest swath of land burned since reliable records began. Wildfires across the country are getting bigger, hotter and more devastating. But what’s all this fire really mean — for the west, for firefighters and for everyday folks? And what’s it really like to fight fire on the ground?
By just about every measure, wildfires are getting bigger, hotter and more devastating than we’ve ever seen before. But what all that fire means — and what to do about it — depends on who you ask.
Get a broader perspective on wildfires, our role in fueling and fighting them, and our reaction to them.
Fireline is a six part series about what wildfire means for the West, our planet and our way of life. Listen now or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.