Episode 4, full transcript

Episode Four: Smoke Out

WARREN: When I was first a TV reporter here in LA, I was sent out to cover a wildfire in Malibu, and I started to do a “standup”. You know, looking into the camera with the fire on the hill behind me. When somebody shouted, I turned around, and then I had to drop my microphone and run from the flames. They were moving so fast, I had to get out of the way. Later that day I put the story together as a possible threat to celebrity mansions. But, now that just doesn’t cut it. Wildfires are so much bigger and faster and more frequent that Cal Fire says there isn’t even a fire season any more. Now it’s harder than ever to make sure that everybody can get out of the way. 


I’m Warren Olney and this is “In Our Backyard”-- a six-part series about the local impacts of climate change in Southern California.


Diana: I'm a year older than Joaquin. We've always been very close. We're -- I feel -- I've always felt like we were twins, actually. And he's my heart. He's, he's my soulmate.

WARREN: That’s Diana Pastora Carson, she’s talking about her brother Joaquin.

Diana: But, I remember one year when I think I turned 14, I had a slumber party at the house and Joaquin sometimes forgot to put clothes on. And he came downstairs and he was 13. I think. He came downstairs and saw all these sleeping bags on the living room floor. And he jumped on top of somebody and was just jumping on her like her, like she was a trampoline. And she woke up screaming and her parents were very, very understanding. 

WARREN: Not everybody was so understanding since Joaquin had first been diagnosed with autism at the age of two.

Diana: And that was at a time when autism was known as a refrigerator mother syndrome. 

WARREN: How did it come to be called that?

Diana: There was somebody and I can't remember his name, nor do I want to remember his name, who said that it was caused by a cold mothers. 

WARREN: Obviously, in the early 1970’s, little was known about autism. There were limited public resources and Joaquin was sent to an institution at age 17.   

Diana: And I'll tell you, we cried for, for years but we were there every weekend to visit him, every weekend to take him out, to keep him in touch with the family that loved him and the community that he was a part of. My family and I fought to have my brother released from a state institution. And after a three-year court battle, we were able to get him out of the institution. And he's lived here for nine years. And he still has autism. He still has a lot of significant behavior, support needs and communication support needs. But it works for him living out here. 

WARREN: Few people with Autism are institutionalized anymore, but Joaquin’s case is very severe -- always has been. And it does take a special place with familiar surroundings to make him feel comfortable.

Diana: Growing up, he always loved rural areas, he loved the smells, he loved the sights, he loved the freedom of being able to run around and make noise. And so when we had this vision of having him released from the institution, we knew that we had to find a rural area, so we settled in Jamul, which is in the outskirts of San Diego, and we found a place that had two homes on it. 

WARREN: Diana moved into one home and Joaquin into the other. He wrote to us -- with the help of his staff -- that he likes to “Watch TV” and “Walk” there. But, his home is not any ordinary piece of real estate.

Diana: His home is customized. It has shatterproof windows. It's highly sanitizable because he has significant gut issues. And my brother has given me permission to share about this. Otherwise I wouldn’t do so for the sake of his dignity. And so we've lived out here for about 15 years. He's been here with us for about nine of those, very successfully. But when we first got bought here, we had one incident of wildfire, where we had to evacuate. Recently in 2020, we had to evacuate twice, and it was the first time we had to evacuate with Joaquin. 

WARREN: Nothing less than the worst case scenario.

Diana: I could see the fire in my driveway. And I had to go down the driveway, which is about a couple football fields away from my house down to Joaquin’s and down where Joaquin is, they couldn't see the fire from that angle. And my concern was that I wasn't going to be able to get Joaquin out. You know, sometimes with autism, your body gets stuck. And I've had nightmares about this. And I try not to focus on these things because I don't want to perpetuate them. But at that moment, it was terrifying. I was shaking. I needed to get to my brother. I needed to get him out, and I needed to find a place to take him.

WARREN: Joaquin said he was “Scared,” but they got out safely...only to face the familiar question: what next? 

Diana: Me trying to be on the phone and calling all the agencies and saying, where can we take him? And so I contacted some people that I knew that were directors of day programs and asked, “could we please take Joaquin to your day program and stay there to escape this and have a safe place?” And they said “no.”


Diana: And, you know, I thought, well, if we could get to a gym that's closed or a YMCA that's closed, but there's so many policies in place that wouldn't allow that and liability. And, you know, we just needed a place for walking to be with his staff and with me in a safe zone where he could go to the bathroom, take showers if he needed to. And we, and we couldn't find it. 

WARREN: We all want to feel safe. I can relate to the shock of seeing flames so close. After a lot of searching and scrambling, though, they did find a place of safety. But it was only for one night.

Diana: One of the agencies that supports people like Joaquin, like my brother, did say that they had a group home that was empty, that he could go and spend the night in. It was, I, I just think it was our, our mother's angel in heaven shining down and protecting him. 

WARREN: Back home the next day, Joaquin said he was “Grateful.”  His place was “Still there.” But his sister Diana, she was looking ahead. How to prepare for the next fire that might require yet another evacuation. 

Diana: Some friends started a GoFundMe page because we kept thinking, what could we do the next time? So we thought a camper where we could take it somewhere. So our friends raised, I believe it was about five or six thousand dollars for us to put towards that. And our father purchased a trailer, which is parked right outside my brother's place right now. And I got a truck so that I -- learned how to drive a truck -- so that we could take it somewhere if we need to. And my father got a truck, so there are two of us -- and my father doesn't live here on this property. So we have two different options to ensure that we can take Joaquin's trailer. If need be. 

WARREN: So, Diana and Joaquin, they found a workaround to escape potentially deadly wildfires bound to increase in the coming years. But, a workaround, that’s ad hoc at best. Not a real solution for the 25% of Americans that have disabilities. That includes those who are blind or need wheelchairs to get around or suffer from mental illness. All kinds of people. They all need special accommodations during evacuations, not bureaucratic red tape that limits their safety. 

It’s easy to be distracted  from our most vulnerable neighbors. In 2020 alone, 33 people died across the state, 10,000 structures burned at a cost of some 12 billion dollars. Additional property damage cost 10 billion, and two billion more were spent to provide fire suppression. But, in all this chaos we don’t want to lose focus on those who are most at risk. 

Liability issues, they’re broader than those Diana and Joaquin faced after evacuating from their home. They play a role in the increased frequency and intensity of California wildfires in California compounded by global climate change -- we’ll hear about in a minute. But, first let’s get down to basics. 

Fire itself, it’s as old as the natural environment.

Don: California is a fire prone landscape. Most of our vegetation communities have some association with fire. But when we think about those kinds of relationships within the landscape and how people have stewarded that landscape, fire is always going to be there. 

WARREN: Don Hankins, he’s a professor of both Geography and Planning at CalState  University at Chico.

Don: If we look back in time and we think about how vegetation communities responded to long-term droughts and punctuations with wet years and extremely wet years, and then going back into these long-term drought cycles, that sometimes those droughts are lasting several decades and people having to live through those kind of environments. Those are examples of some of those long-term changes that over the last ten, fifteen thousand years, people have lived here and adapted to it. And the one constant that's been part of that system has been fire. 

WARREN: So the California landscape is adapted to fire. But here’s one of those weird, paradoxical facts of history. Before Europeans came to dominate Cailifornia, geological evidence shows more acreage was burned every year than there is now. But it was much less intense. Fire was both natural to the environment and an integral part of Native American culture.    

Don: Indigenous people’s relationships to and responsibilities to the landscape comes through kinship, those responsibilities to species that we have ties to.

WARREN: So fire is central to the traditional ecological knowledge and practice we heard about in episode one. 

Don: Indigenous fire and cultural burning are driven largely based off of seeing specific needs within the landscape in a, in a broader context of knowing the traditional laws around the fire. You know, if you think about when are we setting fires and in an indigenous perspective, like if we're looking at a forest ecosystem and it's springtime, you know, are we going to burn if there's nesting birds that are coming in and those birds are part of our cultural responsibilities? We have kinship relationships to certain species. And then we also think about the vegetation communities and fungal communities and things like that that are part of that system and what the long-term objectives are.

WARREN: Long-term objectives -- like  food-- including acorns from oak trees that Native Californians learned how to manage. They’d burn what’s called the “understory” -- the grasses and brush. They’d get rid of dead or dying tree limbs that caused outbreaks of pests. A clean forest floor meant wildfires wouldn’t destroy good things to eat. Not just acorns, but black morel mushrooms and edible grasses and other seed-bearing plants. Vegetables that could sustain a village, making sure there’d be more for the next growing season. And a clean forest floor was also a safety measure. 

Don: A very important reason of why indigenous peoples traditionally used fire in California is to protect the built environment or the village sites. So if you went around in pre-contact times, if you had the ability to travel back in time to see that, people burned around their villages to reduce fuel loads and to maintain visibility for predators like grizzlies. And, you know, there’s just a lot of reasons why people were using fire.

WARREN: When they first arrived and began to dominate California, white Europeans began wiping those practices out. By the time California became a state, well, here’s Willie Pink, he’s Chairman of the Agua Caliente Tribe of Cupeno.    

Willie: California took an active role to ban what they call prairie fire.

WARREN: That was just one provision of a law called, “An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians.” It passed in April of 1850.

Willie: It made it illegal for an Indian to start a fire, it made it illegal for an Indian to watch a fire and not help put it out. 

WARREN: The law provided that an Indian couldn't even watch a fire without putting it out? 

Willie: Yeah, that it was illegal for an Indian to watch a fire and not provide assistance in putting the fire out. Those are some of the later charges that came with, you know, enforcement of this particular legislation. A lot of this was indenturement was what they were trying to do. Slavery was not legal in California, so what you did is you indentured people and you made them liable. It was common practice to, you know, jail an Indian for being intoxicated, make him go to work on Monday and you release them Saturday night and with -- hand him a bottle of whiskey, so he'd be back in jail in time to go back to work on Monday. 

WARREN: And California’s historic promise of riches helped create blindness to the benefits of what California Natives had been doing for so long. 

Willie: Why did they stop the fires? It was infringing upon the goldminers was part of it. And also they thought it was infringing upon grazing when, in fact, there was a benefit to grazing, to burn sections of land periodically to bring back the grasses and that type of thing.


Willie: So I think this was the beginning of the change of the natural environment throughout California. And, you know, it's not just the fire, it's the waterways and everything else that went along with it.

WARREN: Here’s another of those apparent contradictions: managed burns also encouraged the health of meadows, with the added benefit of keeping more moisture in the soil and vegetation. Without burning, trees encroach, soils gets drier, and as the heat from climate change gets into the mix, the trees start to dry up and the environment is more susceptible to big, intense fires. 

Documents from the mid-1900s show the US Forest Service moved away from the use of prescribed burns, and Willie Pink says that made things worse.

Willie: Going back in history it was because of that maintenance and use of fire that you didn't have catastrophic events like we're having today. 

WARREN: Don Hankins puts it in stark terms, saying that, “Outlawing fire is like going against the laws of nature. It’s defying gravity…and it’s a losing battle. You’re never going to win.” 

A losing battle further complicated by another legacy of our colonial past. Something that’s also helped make California beautiful at some times of year. What we’re looking at on our hillsides and in our valleys are grasses we think are natural to the environment. Well, sorry about that…they’re not. Edie Allen specialized in Botany and Plant Sciences before she retired from UC Riverside. 

Edie: So the plants that are problematic in this scenario are the annual grasses from the Mediterranean. Those include the brome grasses like red brome and ripgut brome. And there are wild oats. So a, a number of other annual grasses. 

WARREN: In the days of the COVID pandemic, we hear about air travel carrying diseases all over the world. Well, these invasive grasses were brought here on sailing ships of Spanish colonizers when they first arrived in California. 

Edie: They brought them accidentally, some of them on purpose. The oat grasses are good forage grasses, but mostly accidentally. When they brought their domestic animals with them, they introduced sheep and cattle, they would have brought hay for them and the hay would have come from fields where these wild grasses grow. But when they offloaded the sheep and cattle, of course, they offloaded the hay and the seeds that were there and then they took off.

Warren: And we see these grasses all the time? We, it’s, we think they are perfectly natural? 

Edie: That’s right. And they were, they were introduced. And of course, we do have native grasses here and our native grasslands have been invaded. Our native shrub lands have been invaded. The native shrublands are being converted to grassland. 

WARREN:  And, to get back to our main point, those non-native grasses are not adapted to fire.

Edie: The grasses have a different fuel structure from the native wildflowers. The native wildflowers in the dry summer will disarticulate. They fall apart, they crumble, they fall to the ground.  But grasses, because they have these stronger structures, they have what are known as silica cells. They stand upright and tall during the dry season and they create a fuel that carries across the landscape. And once you have one ton per hectare of this standing dry fuel in the summer and the fall, any spark can carry a fire across the landscape. So previously, a spark might have created a small fire that would have naturally gone out because there wasn't enough fuel. Now there's enough fuel. And these fires can recur year after year. 

WARREN: And that’s not the only damage non-native grasses cause. They also kill off the native plants that are fire-resistant.

Edie: So historically, we've always had fires in California. We've had fires and in our two major shrubland types, which are coastal sage scrub and chaparral. But after the fire comes through the exotic annual grasses are so much faster at reproducing and producing high loads of flammable biomass that a few years later another fire might come through, and then gradually, over time, the shrubs and the native wildflowers no longer have enough seeds in the seed bank, and they grow more slowly so they can't compete with those exotic grasses. 

WARREN: So, it’s a vicious cycle. Since we’ve talked about so many contradictions in this episode when it comes to fire, let’s throw in one more -- having to do with those ongoing emissions that cause temperatures to rise. Air pollution, such as nitrogen coming out of tailpipes, it doesn’t kill vegetation, it helps plants grow.   

Edie: As soon as you start fertilizing the soils with nitrogen that is deposited from atmospheric deposition, the grasses really start to get much more productive.

WARREN: And there’s a lot of nitrogen for better…and also for worse.

Edie: So it is huge amounts of nitrogen that if you were a farmer, you would be happy about it. But if you're a wildland manager, you wouldn't be happy about it. And then, of course, for human health purposes that much nitrogen coming down -- it comes in through the air and you breathe it -- it's unhealthy. So it's unhealthy for human beings and it's unhealthy for ecosystems. 

WARREN: So let’s add it all up. Bad forest management practice, an abundance of non-native grasses in an already fire-prone landscape fed, in part by pollution, they’re make things worse. Then thrown in extended drought, heatwaves, and the rise in lightning strikes caused by climate change, and we’ve created a perfect storm for the megafires we’re seeing today. Not just in California. Across the globe, fires are becoming more common, In fact, the fire seasons in almost a quarter of the world’s grasslands and forests increased by about 18% between 1979 and 2013. 

But, there are things we can do. We can all be careful lighting fires outside. That’s obviously one way to help on a daily basis. But the big fixes, they have to come from government policy makers. Now, since we just talked about pollution, let’s start there. You heard about emissions in episode two, so you know how power plants and traffic are responsible for a good chunk of greenhouse and other harmful gases, like nitrogen. But, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, with their idling ships and constant big rig truck traffic, they’re one of the biggest sources of greenhouse pollution in Southern California.

Alex: I'm a chemical engineer and I know very well what happens to a barrel of oil, and the bottom the dregs of a barrel end up as fuel for the maritime industry. 

WARREN: Now that’s Alex Spataru, CEO of Adept Group. He’s been researching pollution policy in the maritime industry for a long time.

Alex: And up until recently, it was a dumping ground for fuel that otherwise couldn’t be sold. I'll give you an example, for instance, when you refine a barrel of oil, you end up with this goo at the end that has all these heavy metals in it, because simply they don't, they're not part of the distillation process. They end up at the bottom of the barrel, literally. So you clean it out or if you have an outlet it’s a lot cheaper because somebody is actually paying you for that crap. And it's not surprising that many of the tankers that go up and down from Alaska are actually burning that kind of a fuel. 

WARREN: Okay, that’s illegal, according to International maritime standards and in California because of the sulfur rule. 

Alex: But the difficulty is that even though you create a law, even though you create a policy, even though you create a regulation, that regulation is useless, absolutely useless, about as useful as tits on a bull, unless you enforce it. And CARB does a credible job in trying to enforce the California sulfur rule. But it lacks the tools to do so once the ship leaves harbor. 

WARREN: Now Alex is one of those guys who says he can always “find a way.” 

Alex: So we have a rule, but we are not enforcing it fully. So I decided, “wait a minute before you create a new rule, before you start doing something else to clean up the environment, why don't we enforce what we got? Why don’t we do a real good job with that to begin with?” So being a technology transfer specialist, I look to Europe and I found that Europe is way ahead of us as far as enforcement of similar sulfur content rules in maritime fuels. And I spent three years researching this issue. 

WARREN: So here’s Alex’s idea. Use drones to monitor ships, while they’re at sea then you don’t have to wait until they’re already docked to inspect them. 

Alex: By being at sea, you can have your inspectors now fly the drone in the plume on the vessel at sea and you can tell whether they are cheating or not before they come in. So decide if you're going to do an inspection of that vessel or not. A lot of the inspections now are random. It's a lot easier to get hits if you know that this guy is more likely to cheat than the other guy. So the drones provide you a good means to target who is cheating versus who is not. So don't waste your time inspecting somebody who's complying. Spend your time inspecting the people who are most likely to be cheating so you make greater efficiency of the inspectors capabilities.

WARREN: Alex is trying to raise money for his idea and he says the applications of his drone surveillance would go beyond sulphur. He says the drones can be used to track nitrogen emissions, too. Ultimately, curbing that fertilizer effect on our grasslands that Edie talked about earlier.

Alex: To do so you need to access funds that allow you to do that in a major ports. You don't need to worry about the little ones. You just have to do Port of Los Angeles, Port of Long Beach, Oakland, and Seattle. That's all you got to do, OK? And to do so, you need about 400 to 500 million dollars a year. The benefit in terms of improvement of health and environmental benefits are in the billions of dollars range. So you can easily make that argument, OK. Plus, it -- not only lends itself to the sulfur rule, which is just the tip of the iceberg, but NOx rule has come in as of January 1, the kind of NOx measurements the emission says as far as nitrogen oxides, you can use the same system, only change the sensor. So you've got to have the carrot. But you've got to have the stick as well. That's how I raise dogs and that's how I raise kids. 

WARREN: So we can reduce the pollution that warms the planet and adds fuel to the fire, and we can make Southern California communities healthier at the same time. It’s  policy backed by technology. But, what about policies that stand in the way of lowering the risk of fire? You’ll remember our earlier conversation about Native American burning practices. 

As of today, there are regulations to allow prescribed burns -- when fuel loads are reduced through fire during favorable weather conditions -- but a lack of resources, unscientific regulations, and the risks of liability they’ve all been barriers to resuming traditional practices. Here’s Willie Pink again. He has a story that illustrates how Native American practices are still feared today. 

Willie: We did a burn one time when we got, I think, it was 99 phone calls on the fire from outside residents who were calling it into Cal Fire that we were burning illegally and and going to burn the neighborhood down and all that. 

WARREN: Willie says, it’s all about fear and liability. Just like what made the directors of the day-programs turn Joaquin and Diana away when they had to escape from the wildfire in 2020. 

Willie: We had people actually walk over and ask if we needed help, put the fire out. And we had to explain to him, “no, we were burning,” you know. It’s almost like none of them had ever seen anything burn. I mean, I grew up in the day when everybody had a backyard furnace or a five gallon drum for burning their trash and garbage. You know, but these people, I think for them, it’s automatically that fear seeing this fire and the smoke. And we had it under control the whole time. And Cal Fire actually rolled on that one, too. But when they got there, they understood that they saw what was going on. So it goes back to the issue of liability and perception. Nobody wants to deal with the liability. That may require special legislation. You know, if they can make special legislation to protect pharmaceutical companies from liability. They should be able to do the same thing for forest management.

WARREN: Are state agencies now getting better at integrating the traditional ecological knowledge of your ancestors into their land management practices? 

Willie: Yeah, there's more open discussion on it and there are more practices coming about. I think the issue for us is, what are you burning for? Why are you burning? Is it just to protect houses or is it to enhance the environment and bring back more native plants? And I think these are still some of the questions that need to be dealt with, because there are still some prejudices against Indian people. This is the state of California. It's got a tremendous record of mistreatment of Indian people. And it still exists in some ways. But we've knocked down that wall pretty good instead of being ten feet high, it's probably only two feet high today, you know, and there's actually some doors through the wall and it's up to us to walk through it.

WARREN: So those walls might be knocked down a good bit, but Willie continues to work with government agencies for a healthier California. One of the groups he works with is the Intertribal Indigenous Stewardship Project, coordinated by Don Hankins, who we heard from at the top of the episode. 

Don: Looking at what sorts of things were happening already within the state amongst different tribes and tribal organizations and practitioners there's a lot of work that is taking place and has been taking place for, in some cases decades to try to bring back fire. And so with this effort, what we're trying to do is to make outreach to tribal communities, practitioners, and intertribal organizations that are interested in kind of picking up the reins of indigenous stewardship and bringing it back to the landscape and having a connection to the landscape. And so trying to connect people with those kind of opportunities is important. And then another piece of it is also looking at policy and how certain policy pieces might need to be adjusted from an agency perspective to allow for maybe land access, as an example, or co-management of sites or even just self-determination access rights on different areas within ancestral territories. 

WARREN: So far, about 130 people from various tribes are talking with government agencies through the Intertribal Indigenous Stewardship Project hoping they’ll be allowed to use fire again to protect themselves and the land into the future. But the project is moving slowly, and those involved have to tiptoe around and be careful -- especially about the words they use, including the word “fire.”  

Don: I can say that there's agency policies that actually support the implementation of indigenous burning and one that’ll hold up is and I helped to write it is the traditional gathering policy between the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. And we wrote that 2006, 2007. And the state director for the Bureau of Land Management at the time who was working, he said, “hey, would you be willing to work on this?” And I said, “I'm only willing to work on it if it says that we can start to use fire within the landscape.” And he says, “well, given how contentious fire is within the state, you know, and public fear of fire, we can't say ‘fire,’ but we can say traditional management practices. And we'll say that we support the use of indigenous traditional land management practices within the state.” I said, “fair enough, we can do that” because we all know what that means. We know that traditional management practices means fire. So that's actually written into the, the policy that it's traditional management practices. Yeah, it's. It's crazy, it's hard to navigate this, too. 

WARREN: Some states other than California have been more willing to fight fire with fire. 

Don: And I think some great examples of communities that have been able to do that within the United States, in the southeastern US, primarily in Florida and Georgia. There's already this culture shift that's happened, or maybe maybe they're they just never got to the point of having suppression to the level that we've had it. But, you know, it's kind of expected in some of these communities that on a relatively frequent basis, maybe annually, that somebody is going to come in and set fire in your neighborhood. And that fire is intended to protect your house and to protect the ecological community and all these different things. We're just not there yet at this point to the scale that it needs to be in our state. But at some point, you know, I hope in the near future we’ll be there and we will stop seeing such devastating fires impacting our communities and our health and our ecological systems and so forth. And that's going to be the thing that that's going to help us to be more resilient to the effects of climate change, too, as as things dry out, it's going to allow for those areas of state that are drier to have less dense vegetation, for instance, and less disease impacts on the vegetation. And so we're able to retain the natural communities through fire being a process that sorts things out in the landscape. And that's where that cultural piece comes in, because if we understand some of those parameters of why and how and what we're burning and we know when it's appropriate to set fire in that particular place, then we can actually enhance that biodiversity and achieve the fuel reduction at the same time.

WARREN: Looking at things holistically, that's something we desperately need to do as wildfires increase across the state. And it's not just about the fires themselves. Preparation includes everyone, including our most vulnerable neighbors. 

WARREN: Do you worry that as climate change becomes more important, more perceived as an emergency? Are you worried that disabled people are going to get left behind? 

Diana: It's a huge concern. It's, it's a very big concern. If anybody's going to be left behind, it is going to be people who do need more support in terms of remaining safe in those kinds of situations. 

WARREN: Can you generalize a bit about the problems that disabled people face when we're looking at climate change and all of the things that are likely to take place as a result of it? 

Diana: I mean, when you've met one person with a disability, you've met one person with a disability. Not everybody's the same. You know, for someone like Joaquin who has significant behavioral support needs having durable accommodations accessible to him -- it would be great if every hotel had a durable room that we could go to, that would be something for him. There are people who have significant medical needs and who need -- or who just need a place where there's less sensory overload. Maybe the lighting and the sounds are different. You know having access to evacuation plans that meet a wide variety of needs is what is needed. And I know that there are people who are working on coming up with plans globally for disaster preparedness, for people with different disabilities. 

WARREN: So wildfires were always part of California’s natural environment, then came settlers and decades of mismanagement. And now there’s Climate Change -- with fearsome challenges for the future. Evacuation for those in the paths of increasing numbers of fires, increased pollution and smoke damage for people hundreds of miles away. Native American practices can be updated -- despite bureaucratic inertia -- but those won’t be enough to counteract the new reality. Wildfire is the most dramatic evidence of what’s coming in the era of climate change. We can’t stop it -- but there’s an urgent need to prepare --  to mitigate the inevitable consequences as best we can. And to take care of everybody.    

Next week: On the rocks. 

In Our Backyard. It’s an original series from Inside Media Voices. You can find out more about Inside Voices at InsideVoicesMedia.com

It’s hosted by me, Warren Olney.

Our producer is Julie Carli.

This series was edited by Gary Scott.

With fact checking by Alec Cowan.

Sound engineering by JC Swiatek.

And Katie McMurran is our sound designer.

This series was made possible through the generous support of Climate Resolve, it addresses global climate change with local action. Learn more about Climate Resolve at climate resolve.org.

Special thanks to Stu Vice and Justin Valleyair, nitrogen deposition experts, who both took time to teach us about the impacts of their specialty. 

Britney Munoz of the San Diego Fire Safe Council, who fielded all our calls and provided a lot of information about wildfires in the time of climate change. 

And, finally, Marty Leavitt, who helped found the Fire Safe Council of San Diego County, and obtained funding to help create community FSCs.