Author and reporter Rocky Barker has covered wildfires for many years, and has seen their potential for destruction firsthand. In his book, Scorched Earth: How the Fires in Yellowstone Changed America, Barker argues that the Yellowstone Fires of 1988 were the signal fires for a new way of looking at wildfires. Barker weighs in on current fire policy as well as the public’s perception of fire in their communities.
On the Yellowstone Fire:
“In 1988 I actually have got a chance to see fire at its fiercest. Not just sitting on the sidelines, but I was in the middle of it at Old Faithful. I was right in the middle of a huge fire storm that burned through that big beautiful area that includes that giant log building, that wonderful, historic, log, Old Faithful inn. And when people talk to me about the danger to communities from wildfire, I think about standing only 100 feet away from that giant inn in the middle of this fire storm where fire brands as big as my fist were flying past my head at 70 mph! It was unbelievably scary for people, but with a little bit of water on the roof and the fact that most of that area around old faithful is clear, that fire burned through in as fierce a situation as it could be, and then moved on.”
On personal responsibility:
“We keep thinking that fire, these crown fires, are what’re going to burn our communities. Most of the time, these crown fires, as big and giant as they are in August and sometimes September, usually they come into our communities and they drop to the ground. It is our unwillingness to take responsibility ourselves and clear around our homes that ends up causing the fire to burn from house to house while the trees stay green. It is a perception that I think most Americans and certainly most Westerners don’t have.”
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