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Land on Fire

Articles: Land on Fire

Wildfire. The word makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Fire has hit the West hard. Last fall devastating fires in California leveled entire neighborhoods. British Columbia had their worst fire season ever. The Columbia Gorge incineration leapt in size by acres and then by miles within 24 hours. The historic Sperry Chalet in Glacier Park is now burnt rubble, and well, history.

Recently, I interviewed Gary Ferguson, author of Land on Fire: The New Reality of Wildfire in the West. A nature writer, ecologist, and author of 25 books, Gary has studied natural history and wildfires in the United States since the 1970s. An avid outdoorsman and lover of the forest, he’s delved deeply into the science of fire behavior, ecology, firefighting training, command structures, and development in fire-prone regions. More than 70,000 communities are built into the “wildland-urban interface,” an unwieldy term, but one that needs to be fiercely etched on our awareness. Of those thousands of communities, only three percent have incorporated guidelines for fire-wise landscaping practices. This is a setting for disaster.

“How did this happen?” I asked. Ferguson summed up three primary is...


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