The fury of fire

Following the hottest July ever in human recorded history on planet earth, the American west is having the greatest outbreak of wildfires since the great fires of 1910, which ravaged Montana, Idaho, and Washington state.

Fires are burning widely across my home state of Oregon, Washington, California, British Columbia, and Alaska. Three firefighters were killed on Aug. 19, fighting a blaze in the Methow Valley near Twisp–an area hammered by wildfires in 2014. There is major change taking place. This will involve how we plan for fire, build in fire zones, speculate for fast profits in pretty Western scenery (if you can afford that game), and consider what is safe.

Maybe the lessons will be forgotten. People, particularly wealthy people, will still want to live near the mountains and wild places where fires naturally occur, but with global warming patterns due to climate change, the ecosystem will be transformed more and more by big burns. We as a country cannot afford to purely protect all of the property here, particularly when the sacrifice is lost firefighters’ lives. Will it one day be left just to burn?

I took this picture about a week after fires ravaged the town of Pateros, in central Washington, again at the center of Washington’s complex of fires.

(Click on the picture to see a larger photograph on a separate picture page.)

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