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Podcast Looks At Ways The West Can Better Live With Wildfires

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Associated Press

Historic heatwaves spawned record wildfires this year in the United States and around the world. The Fireline podcast stresses the need to learn to live with the risks by making buildings safer and smarter development in wilderness areas.

This year’s wildfires have gotten so big they even have their own podcast.

The new podcast Fireline explores the conflict between fire’s beneficial role in the ecosystem and the destructive power so on display this summer.

A theme that runs through the podcast's six episodes is the need for people in the West to better understand wildfires, their inevitability, and the need to learn to co-exist with them.

“It's sort of a necessary idea. And it's an idea that we've as a species have had to embrace since our inception,” said Justin Angle, the show’s host, adding that it’s something people in the West “have to do in order to be able to live the lives that we want to live in this region.”

Fireline producer Nick Mott told State of Nevada that the people of the West need to put aside longstanding approaches to dealing with fire.

"For a century, we've tried to manipulate fire, we've tried to pretend that we can control it, that we are the ones in charge," he said.

Mott said this reckoning provides the "tension at the heart of the podcast."

"Fire is good for the landscape, we need fire and we cannot escape fire," he said, "and yet it's this terrifying threat.

"We have to think differently about this thing that seems so immediate and horrifying."

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According to the federal government, more than 46 million people in 70,000 communities live in what’s called the Wildland Urban Interface, or WUI, which comprises an area the size of Texas.

“It’s this sort of area that we could think of on the edge of development, but it's no longer always the edge these days,” Angle said. “A wildfire could be miles away, and this stuff that can light your house on fire blows all the way there.”

The pair say the challenge of dealing with wildfires goes beyond the traditional advice to clear brush from around structures and leaves from gutters. They say communities should rethink where buildings go and how they are built, but that can face opposition, particularly in municipalities that rely on development and property taxes for revenue.

“We've solved this problem before in certain places, Chicago, for example, burned down twice, and we changed building codes and policies there,” Angle said. “We haven't yet responded to wildfire in the same way. And it's sort of scary to think about what it might take.”

Guests

Justin Angle, host, Fireline podcast; Nick Mott, producer

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