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Articles on Firefighting

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Before satellites, fire crews watched for smoke from fire towers across the national forests. K. D. Swan, U.S. Forest Service

Big fires demand a big response: How 1910’s Big Burn can help us think smarter about fighting wildfires and living with fire

The US has learned that it cannot suppress its way to a healthy relationship with fire in the West. That strategy failed, even before climate change proved it to be no strategy at all.
The Cedar Creek Fire burns in Washington’s Methow Valley in late July 2021. Jessica Kelley

How years of fighting every wildfire helped fuel the Western megafires of today

More than 40 fire scientists and forest ecologists in the US and Canada teamed up to investigate why wildfires are getting more extreme. Climate change is part of the problem, but there’s more.
Satellites can quickly detect and monitor wildfires from space, like this 2017 fire that encroached on Ventura, California. NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens

Bringing tech innovation to wildfires: 4 recommendations for smarter firefighting as megafires menace the US

Satellites can already spot a new fire within minutes, but the information they beam back to Earth isn’t getting to everyone who needs it or used as well as it could be.
Sampling wildfire smoke sometimes means sticking a tube out the window of an airplane. Brett Palm/University of Washington

Wildfire smoke changes dramatically as it ages, and that matters for downwind air quality – here’s what we learned flying through smoke plumes

Thousands of chemical compounds in wildfire smoke are interacting with each other and sunlight as the smoke travels. For people downwind, it can become more toxic over time.
The health impact of wildfire exposure depends in part on the fire itself and how much smoke a person breathes in, how often and for how long. AP Photos/Noah Berger

What’s in wildfire smoke, and why is it so bad for your lungs?

Wildfires blanketing several Western cities are creating hazardous health conditions. Don’t count on cloth masks to protect your lungs.

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