In Brief

Megafires Will Be the New Normal in the West

Tree Surrounded by Flames During the Rim Fire
A tree appears silhouetted by the raging Rim Fire in California. The fire originated on August 17. 2013. (Image credit: InciWeb)

Huge, uncontrollable fires will be the new normal in the American West, a new report finds. And housing developments closer to dry forests are exacerbating the problem.

The Washington Post reports that when fire threatens, firefighters will rush to protect homes, instead of managing fires at their sources.

"The cost is going up, and one reason is the extreme amount of resources that has to be put into putting out fires near an urban interface,” study researcher Scott Stephens, a University of California at Berkeley fire scientist, told the Post. “Having those houses there … man, that gets expensive. A fire engine every four, five or six houses, and there are hundreds of houses out there.”

Climate change is also contributing to firefighting challenges, the report found. Drought is becoming more common out West, and fire suppression efforts allow for the build-up of brush that fuels megafires.

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Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.