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60 Minutes: Why fighting wildfires often fails — and what to do about it


More than 100M Americans live in or near forests and grasslands that can erupt in flames. Steve Inskeep reports on fighting wildfires, which cost federal agencies almost $2B last year

Fighting wildfires in America cost federal agencies almost $2 billion last year including more than half the budget of the U.S. Forest Service. Wildland fires are growing worse in a time of drought and climate change, and the biggest and most destructive fires can’t be stopped. They are a force of nature: imagine trying to stop a hurricane. Yet the government has to try, because more than a 100 million Americans now live in — or near — forests and grasslands that can erupt in flames.

This excellent 60 Minutes news magazine program featured a segment called “In the Path of Fire.” In just over 12 minutes, the episode accurately summarizes the sobering reality of wildfires in the US — the increasing frequency of large, extreme fires, the spiraling costs of fighting these fires, and the toll on life and property in the areas where more and more people live, known as the wildland/urban interface. Fire scientist Dr. Jack Cohen, whose research has formed the basis for how NFPA works to help homes and communities become ignition resistant, is featured.

Producers David Schneider and Joyce Gesundheit frame the issues succinctly, and reporter Steve Inskeep does a great job asking the questions of federal officials, local fire service, residents, and scientists. 

Watch the 60 Minutes Special

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