The full moon rises over flames of the Alamo fire on a hilltop off Highway 166 east of Santa Maria, California, U.S., 7 July 2017. Photo: Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Dept / REUTERS

By Anastasia Selby 
14 September 2017

(Vox) – The mundane days all run together. But those days when I was genuinely unsure if I would make it to the end of my shift intact are the ones that stand out.

I remember fighting a fire on the Angeles National Forest in 2002. Our crew flew onto a ridge in a helicopter. The rotor wash, or wind created by the helicopter blades, flung orange embers into the unburned vegetation — the “green.” Immediately, it started burning.

We jumped out of the helicopter, ran underneath the fire and started digging. The goal was to quickly create a line free of any vegetation that could burn, called a fireline, which we used to stop fires from growing. Digging fireline is grueling; I often lost myself in the sound of chainsaws and rhythm of my tool hitting the dirt and ignored my physical pain.

Some of us had to run deep into the green and find embers or put out new small fires before they began burning out of control. There were full minutes when I thought, this may be it. We may not make it.

I worked as a woman wildland firefighter for seven years in the 2000s. And so I’ve been watching the smoky footage on my computer of the fires burning across the West this last month with great unease. Take the La Tuna Fire, which ignited on September 1. It was one of the largest fires Los Angeles has ever seen and burned more than 7,000 acres before it was contained. And it’s the kind of fire that is increasingly common in the age of climate change.

Wildland firefighters are especially attuned to how climate change puts us all at greater risk for destructive fires. We understand how higher temperatures and long-term drought are the perfect conditions for ignition. To us, there’s little controversy that it’s happening, although not everyone believes it’s human caused. I do, and, along with others in the field, I wonder when those in power will take the steps needed to address climate change. [more]

I'm a woman who fought wildfires for 7 years. Climate change is absolutely making them worse.


  1. Jose said...

    As long as the resource agencies limit logging, allow beetle infestations to grow re lack of logging, and use limited action in wildfire suppression, there will be expensive large fires to suppress. Also to continue to allow houses to be built in the woods, and to not require defensible space around houses, subdivisions and communities, there will be large and deadly interface fires. Add a few years of drought and climate change (really weather cycles long term, like the late 1800s, early 1900s, the Dirty Thirthy drought ycle, and recent droughts re El Niño, we will continue to have large, deadly and costly forest,and brush fires. Nature wins in the long run, period.  


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