What Smokey Bear Might Have Learned in Indian Country

"On Memorial Day weekend in 2011, an unattended campfire in Bear Wallow Wilderness sparked a small brush fire that quickly turned into a holocaust, burning through 538,000 acres and destroying 32 homes in the process. It cost taxpayers more than $79 million to suppress. The Wallow fire was the largest fire in Arizona history, with almost 6,000 people evacuated during the weeks it burned. The San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, just to the west of where the fire started, was hardly touched.

Therein lies a story that American Indians can take pride in and U.S. firefighters and their cash-strapped agencies, entering what is expected to be one of the worst fire seasons in U.S. history, can learn much from.

When the reservation was established in southeastern Arizona in 1872, it was known as "Hell's Forty Acres" due to the region's unforgiving heat. Almost 140 years later, though, it was one of the few patches of forest in the region that the flames skipped. It was not magic that saved it, but years of preparation."

Henry Gass and Nathanael Massey report for ClimateWire May 19, 2014.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014