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Are We Fighting Wildfires The Wrong Way?46:59
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With guest host Sacha Pfeiffer.

Thousands of acres are ablaze in the West and there could be more wildfires to come. Is it time to change the way we fight these fires?

CalFire firefighter Bo Santiago lights a backfire as the Rocky fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The fire has charred more than 60,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 residences. (AP)
CalFire firefighter Bo Santiago lights a backfire as the Rocky fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The fire has charred more than 60,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 residences. (AP)

California is burning again, and the wildfires there are longer, faster and hotter than ever before. And it’s not just the West Coast. North Carolina, Texas, Hawaii and at least a half-dozen other states have active wildfires. Fighting them is costing billions, and our current approach often makes the situation worse. Experts say we need a new strategy. Rethinking where we build homes. Not putting out all fires. More planned burns. More thinning of our woodlands. Ending the attitude that forests are cathedrals that shouldn’t be touched. This hour, On Point: is it time to change the way we fight fires?
-- Sacha Pfeiffer 

Guests

Peter Fimrite, reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle. (@pfimrite)

Ron Dunton, assistant director of fire and aviation for the Bureau of Land Management at the National Interagency Fire Center.

Scott Stephens, professor of fire science with the department of environmental science at the University of California, Berekley. Director of the UC Center for Fire Research and Outreach.

From The Reading List

San Francisco Chronicle: Firefighters make big gains on 36-square-mile Jerusalem Fire — "Firefighters reported big gains Thursday in their battle with a Lake County blaze that had shown little inclination to slow its relentless advance. The fire has consumed 16,000 acres after doubling in size overnight and is currently five percent contained."

The Conversation: From Smokey Bear to climate change: the future of wildland fire management -- "Regardless of the reasons behind our current practices, our reluctance to actively manage fire and our wildland resources – the fuel – must end. Indeed, the future of 'fighting' wildland fires means actively removing fuel through large-scale prescribed fires.

Mother Jones: 30 Percent of California's Forest Firefighters Are Prisoners — "Here's a kind of crazy stat: Between 30 and 40 percent of California's forest firefighters are state prison inmates. The state has become a tinderbox of sorts from a four-year drought, and roughly 4,000 low-level felons are on the front lines of the state's active fires."

This program aired on August 17, 2015.

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