The Fires This Time, and Next

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Science  02 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5544, pp. 1005-1006
DOI: 10.1126/science.1064989

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Natural conditions favor fires in the American West. In this Science and Society essay, Pyne describes three major trends in the state of fires there. One is the advent of industrial fire, a shift from burning living to fossil biomass. Another is the imperial story of how the West became public land. The last is a national narrative, the peculiar choices the United States has made over the past century about how to cope with fire. In imagining the future of fire, all three trends should be considered. The likelihood is that the crisis de jour--fires racing through landscapes in which houses mingle with wild lands--will pass within 10 years.