An Unnatural Disaster

| | Wildfires rage across the West, earlier than usual this year Lori Morris; nytimes.com|

While the Angora fire raging near Lake Tahoe is getting all the attention, more than a dozen other major wildfires are also burning around the drought-stricken West. They're the result of a perfect storm of fuel accumulation (thanks to years of fire suppression), climate change and rural sprawl.

An article in today's New York Times reports that, according to research done by Volker C. Radeloff at the University of Wisconsin, more than 8.6 million new homes have been constructed within 30 miles of a national forest since 1982. Many of the people occupying these homes are new to the rural West—and unaware of the danger they're facing. They haven't taken the necessary steps to protect their homes from forest fires.

The rest of us are paying the price. With firefighting efforts focused on saving scenic homes, there are fewer resources available for protecting public lands. And the fire season has just begun.—Dawn Stover