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Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting Burned

PBS' American Experience is re-airing a documentary entitled the "Big Burn." The show tells the
story of the 1910 fire season when more than 3 million acres of the American West went up in flames. Even more troubling, 78 fire fighters lost their lives fighting what is America's biggest fire.

2015 is shaping up to be a horrific fire season. Droughts in states like California and Washington have already been declared. Record low snow levels could result in a historic fire season. Federal and state government land management agencies also face tight fire fighting budgets.  These two trends (droughts, limited funds) are likely to continue to years.

Given this, how should land management agencies manage wildland fire? Should agencies continue to fight fires? Should they triage their approach? If so, what criteria should be used? Should agencies shift to a prevention approach that includes buying out land owners in high risk fire areas? Or is it time for land managers to tell these land owners they are likely to be on their own?

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