Wildfires: Big Threats and Big Business
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Wildfires: Big Threats and Big Business

The US is losing the fight against wildfires, which are bigger, more numerous and more costly than ever before. We hear how firefighting has become an industry, which sometimes makes matters worse. Can we learn to live more successfully with a growing menace that's not going away? Also, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to step down, and another big piece has broken off Canada's ice shelf, which has been shrinking for almost 100 years.


A firefighter with the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District talks on his radio as a spot fire burns through trees and brush July 10, 2008 in Concow, Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Making News

Israel's Olmert Won't Stand for Re-Election ()

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced he's effectively stepping down. He will not be a candidate to lead his Kadima Party in its September primary. Isabel Kershner, whoc is based in Jerusalem for the New York Times, has an update.

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Main Topic

Fighting Mega-Fires ()

More than 100 years after the federal government declared war on wildfire, wildfire is winning. The US Forest Service reports there are 40 large fires currently burning, from Florida to California, with 564 contained so far this year. They are "bigger, fiercer and costlier to put out [than they've ever been]… and there is no end in sight." Ten years ago, the National Forest Service spent $307 million on fire suppression. Last year, the bill was $1.37 billion. Private contracting for firefighters and their equipment can turn potential disasters into bonanzas for local communities. Does firefighting itself create future problems? Would preventative management save big money? What are the roles of politics and the media?

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Reporter's Notebook

Melting Ice in the Arctic ()

The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf is what remains of a frozen mass that used to extend across all of Ellesmere Island. The shelf is 130 feet thick and 170 square miles in size. Today, after a massive sheet of ice broke away—the largest on record in the past three years, it's about 10 square miles smaller than it was last week. Professor Jason Box is a researcher at Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center, studying climate and ice interactions in Greenland.

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