Update: America's ring of fire

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Last fall, Reveal reporters found that wildfires were burning in new parts of the country, and in more densely populated areas. Now, we revisit that hour with a new story about Kansas, which is battling not only wildfires, but also significant underfunding of its forest firefighter team.

Why are wildfires causing more damage than before? We learn from data reporter Eric Sagara that part of the reason is that Americans are building more and more homes in wildlands across the country – and not just in the West.

Next, host Al Letson speaks with fire management coordinator Ross Hauck from Kansas Forest Service. Kansas has the smallest forest service in the nation. That became a problem for Hauck this spring when the state’s largest wildfire in history burned hundreds of thousands of acres.

Then we hear from data reporter Emmanuel Martinez about the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. That disaster took the lives of 19 specially trained firefighters, destroyed more than 100 homes and burned more than 8,000 acres. But it hasn’t scared people away from living in Yarnell. Three years later, about half the homes lost in the fire have been rebuilt, even though the threat of wildfire is still there.

Finally, reporter and producer Ike Sriskandarajah visits an Arizona town with a solution to its wildfire problem: It’s cutting trees to save the forest. Flagstaff residents voted to invest in transforming their fire department and landscape to prevent the dense forest surrounding them from turning into a ring of fire.

Illustration by Anna Vignet for Reveal




Al Letson