"In Arid West, Cheatgrass Turns Fires Into Infernos"

"Cheatgrass is about as Western as cowboy boots and sagebrush. It grows in yellowish clumps, about knee high to a horse, and likes arid land. One thing cheatgrass does is burn — in fact, more easily than anyone realized. That's the conclusion from a new study that says cheatgrass is making Western wildfires worse."

"Jennifer Balch used to start fires in the southern Amazon to understand how they burn. Now she's turned her attention to the American West, where big wildfires are on the rise. Instead of lighting fires, though, she studies satellite photos of the Great Basin — that bowl of arid land stretching from California to Utah and Wyoming.

It's cheatgrass central, and it burns a lot. But no one realized just how much until Balch started measuring those fires."

Christopher Joyce reports for NPR's All Things Considered December 5, 2012.

Source: NPR, 12/07/2012