The Times explores the growth and cost of wildfires.
A century after the government declared war on wildfire, fire is gaining the upper hand. Wildland blazes are growing bigger, fiercer and harder to put out. Firefighting costs are rising, too, and much of the money is going to private contractors. »
Fire commanders are often pressured to order firefighting planes and helicopters into action even when they won't do any good. The reason: Aerial drops of water and retardant make good television. They're a visible way for political leaders to show they're acting decisively to quell a fire. Firefighters call them "CNN drops." »
More and more Americans are moving into fire-prone canyons and woodlands. The settings are picturesque but road networks are often inadequate. In a wildfire, everyone may not be able to get out safely. »
From Frederic Remington paintings to Gene Autry songs and John Wayne movies, the cultural imagery of the West is steeped in sagebrush. Now, a devastating cycle of fire, fueled by non-native plants, is wiping sagebrush from vast stretches of the Great Basin. »
Wildfire is a pervasive danger in Australia, just as in much of the Western U.S. But Australians cope with the threat very differently than Americans do. Rather than rely on professional firefighters to protect their lives and property, many Australians do it themselves. »