« Reveal

America’s Ring of Fire

2016-10-08 | 🔗

Wildfires are getting bigger, more expensive to fight and closer than ever to where people live. The consequences can be deadly. The next episode of Reveal examines how wildfires got so dangerous – and how some areas are fighting back.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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From the centre for investigative reporting in p r ex this is reveal a mallet. So what does it take to make a city burn in nineteen? Sixty one Bel air found out. It sits in the hills, above LOS Angeles and went away. Fire swept through neighborhoods there. It was an island. This is in L, a fire department document we made in the sixties, design for disaster plants with trees and brush become crackling dry. It shows seems that shocked people at the time. A great wooden roofs in yards filled with overgrown vegetation fed flames. As the fires swept through an exclusive neighbourhood, thousands fled their homes.
It's quiet, crews struggled to contain the blaze they potential of a hundred and thirty four square miles thick dry chaparral on all within the city, boundaries of LOS Angeles, classed by experts as the past, the burning ground cover in the western hemisphere, nestled in that govern one of the greatest concentration. High value homes and american assyrian hundreds of homes were destroyed in the sixty one hundred acres firestorm that still ranks among the twenty most damaging fires in California, history fires, Stephen Pine causes the beginning. A new era in fighting wildfires. They beller fire really was a real stutter to have what was nominally city burn like this, when it most, The industrial world You had to have an earthquake or a war to be able to shattered the system sufficiently to burn March chunks of city during the fifty five
here since Billy, a bird wildfires with in city limits, headaches way more common? But the question is why and just how widespread? Are they that's? What Eric cigar I wanted to find out? he's a data. Journalists at reveal any spent about a year. Analyzing data at his desk and reporting in the field did you out why more Americans, or at risk of losing their homes and even their lives to wildfire aired brought in somewhat carries with him when he heads out to cover fires so Eric? What do you get So in this bag we have some of the fire gear that we took with us on a road trip through southern California, Northern Arizona. It's a big jumble, mass we bring in our fire boots would bring him fire retardants, pants and shirts, gloves a helmet and a fire shelter. So what Fire shelter deserve the fire shelters kind of the last resort for a fire fighter in trouble in the wildfire situation
and the way it works is the Yankee it out and they unfold this massive thing and they they get under it right, and so they get. I've heard a call things like a jiffy pop bag or shaken bake. It looks like a jiffy back so once deploy these things. The way they take it up, They fall down on the ground. Covered and they're not supposed to get out, no matter what that's intends need reporting on fires for a long time, right, yeah, I'm sorry reporting fires and early, two thousands, an intern, and I went so far still go ahead and trained as a white man firefighter at least take the basic training levels you're. What are you seeing differently because now eulogist focused What are you looking at the whole country right and this Allow me then, to go ahead and use my expertise as a data reporter to look at something It sets out their covering this sort of issue and analyze. Some. The transit were saying basically
fires are getting larger throughout the United States, particularly in the west, but throughout the United States were seen an increase in fire size. Does development have anything to do with all this It does actually the population growth is huge in these areas. Right now and that's an issue so fires are now. How you round they're getting a lot bigger and their spreading beyond the west happening all over the country and because people are settling in these wild areas were actually seeing more image to homes and more lies loss that would landed Eric back in LOS Angeles County were nowadays it's always fire season. Since the belly of fire, there have been nearly fifteen hundred other fires in California, most populated county. He arrives MID July, just in time for what known as the sand fire named Did you saint kid? This is a hot fast fire and canyons were scattered, neighborhoods dot, the Angeles National Forest. Three of us.
From reveal right in a rented suv among roads lined with Chaparral. It's a bush us what's. Global oil. When it's warm moist, where the road cuts, through the hillside, on the other side is just a wall smoke we back into a parking. And leave the engine running in case. We need to leave quickly near by a group of fire, writers is planning the air attack that we're trying to keep it from job. In this died again in its Monday from the sand, Marcos, fire department or the main? How to fires running China slump oversight of the fire for Austria, and we have supporting airplane. In return, soon, a heavy lived helicopter hummers in loan dropping loads of neon pink retardant from the sky. By accident I get Alpha virus, even
with the ground near fight, I can still see fire lurking around them out. Flames on either side of the road, including up on the ridge line. I can see the fire torturing through some larger brush about fifty feet away. Don't you feel the need at my face from the hillside is burning next to me, just on the other side of the hill, a suburban neighbourhood pushes into the wild land area claims all this guy redirection Firefox, our position on the hill around and evacuated Cul De Sac ready to defend homes there. Something so post apocalyptic about a suburban neighbourhood on a sunny day with no people because a running on the rooftops in a feeble attempted to keep their homes safe MRS Fighters, firefighters, dish, Schwab prevent we're a county have part their engines, their scattered throughout the neighbourhood. Just waiting for the fire to hit, I see other firefighters per
rooftops. They have a better view of the flames from there and can put any members that fly their way home in this area have lived with. Fires like this many of brush around their houses to create what firefighters called defensible space mining, chance properties where they don't see that at its it's just dangerous and in California consummate one dollars dangerous, eager to put and expensive in California, cost one dollars and eager to put out fires were wild man where homes, the agriculture too. Inspector General Report, that's more than twice what it costs to fight fires and force without people, Stephen Pine, has written twenty bucks examining all this. We know how, keep thousands from burning. We ve known for a long time is more people than ever choose to live near nature, to find out how many people that is The database from the University of Wisconsin
that millions of records nearly help me pinpoint warehouses mingle With- U S, I found that more than a third of the nearly sixteen million homes built in the U S and two thousand are in places at risk of wildfires, homeowner Shirley Gomes, is one of them. I ask evacuees, are allowed to return. Homeowner Ireland Gomes, is one of them. I ask her: what does all this look like this At times it was going three different directions at the same time, and in the winds would change and swirl, and you just you know, you'd hoping and praying it isn't. Gonna get. You know anybody. This is a third when I can remember that was actually real through. You know anybody. This is a third when I can remember that was actually real, threatening in the past. Why do we stay its? the odds are wonderful community and her to undo the odds ivy we're still after three fires were still here. Sweet drive away past the black landscape, a column of smoke rises,
a dark brown sky. It would take twelve days were fire fighters to contain the sand fire it killed him destroyed eighteen homes, bird more than forty thousand acres and stripped the hills, every living thing. Why to fires like this? Still happen to learn more, I went to see while coming ten who heads the economical restoration Institute at Northern Arizona, what does he want? Covington, who heads the echoes? go Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University. He looks like a tall outdoors grandfather with a twinkle in his eye. Research has changed the way Americans managed force through techniques. He calls treatment, cutting down trees to them the floor setting controlled burns. That kind of thing when we tell hundred acres fires used to be outliers freak occurrences. To be a thousand acres and people said, while still so not usual advance Roy Dry Year, like
getting wrong, plaice and sole, but once it got into every year in and year out million acre millions of acres burning each year than people said well something bad here, something the two of US stamina swamp. Forest divided by their path: on one side law centuries, old, pines, with orange, yellow bark, Don open landscape, This is the way while he says for should look on the other side, younger darker pine stand and what people call a dog here, patch dense like the here on the back of a dog This is what many force looked like today. Why studies The two sides and his outdoor laboratory worried as to restore the forest to explain why he cares across such ass. From a tree that began growing in the least sixteen hundreds, the rings stump, tell the story of forest policy over five hundred years in the middle, the stump the tree was young, its way
Your wide indicating healthy growth, lightning struck him. Seventeen, fifty seven from that. Ford, you can see, the stump is lined with scars from fires. There. Seventeen seventy three, seventeen eighty five eighteen o three. So this force is supposed to burn every two to seven years under natural conditions. That's eighteen, thirty, nine! Eighteen, fifty seven all told eighteen fires from seventeen fifty seven to eighteen, seventy six! Then the fire stopped shortly after eighteen. Seventy
cattle and livestock grazing began in earnest out here and serious overgrazing. When we point out the trees wings got thinner has continued to grow. That's because it had to compete with more vegetation for the new treaty needed to stay alive. This made it more vulnerable to insects, drought and fire conditions like this affect millions of trees throughout the country. This overgrazing was actually encouraged by early foresters as a way to keep rather the force because far was seen as the enemy now scientists that climate change will alter fire activity throughout the United States. Weapon It'll be wetter. Dry periods drier storms? Bring less rain and snow instead will seem Lightning their sports wildfires and wind. They can drive. Flames was explosive force, The story has still nationally been one were stupid westerners are putting houses where there are fires, and that's true pine noses from experience. He spent fifteen
here's a wild land firefighter is what he knew to keep his vacation home safe from a fire five years ago, but as the climate change our are correct. We're going start seeing the fires go to where the houses are and that's going to be increasingly be on the east that point it becomes national story, there's a lot of information about wildfires in the West, because there's more federal land there and the federal government. Keeps track of all that data. We know less about wildfires in east, because state and local fiery tissues don't always track the same information the data we do have shows that seventy percent of wildfires occur outside of western states for one s MRS local firefighters, responded. Nine hundred wilder's each day on average, We also know many local departments are prepared for wildfires. These. Probably smaller than what we see on television. An acre here
and they go there- that small grass fire by the side of the road may not seem like a big deal. Tell reaches out of control. All cases takes amber carried by an unexpected gust of wind. That's what happened South Carolina three years ago, never even crossed my mind that I could potentially lose everything to a fire Jody Aldrich, this kind of burned in a fire ribbon Seventy eight thousand fires interstate between one thousand nine hundred and ninety two and two thousand and thirteen he drive from one straight to the next street. You could look down and see I'm flames. Imagine two story: condos, there's four units and each building and there's nothing but flying, and black smoke flames jump from the Bush and building the building remit The white picket fence is that line the streets. Usually what we get our smaller brushfires, but other than that had never been this
danger that we had heard a totally left behind a puppy called puck and pretty much everything else. Baby pictures things from high school Did you know some of the things as a woman you hold onto a certain outfit because You remember, and I met them with special. To you that you are that two things like that. That I can't ever get back after the fire. She and become a volunteer fire fighter and got a better understanding of just how much the homes and the people who live in them are at risk. I don't know, far more aware of it now, but I do feel like number of fires have increased each year, fires mean more homes are likely to burn, there's no getting around. That's as Jim Herbert the man in charge wildfires for the forest service. I would say that we continue to lose buildings and homes. There are just some aren't gonna be saved. He says, saving the lives of residents and firefighters has to be
because he's top priority. That means there are some place. Sometimes that we won't be able to save the buildings? Stephen pie, says leaders need to cultivate the political will for change around wildfire policies. I wonder Oh, how did cities quit burning it's because there were people local decisions about building codes, firing. Current standards. Fundamental issues that were not left to the market, not left to individual or developers whims, and until we have a political decision on that scale? You're not going to solve the problem, and settings every fire you put out is a problem solved and while bland most wild lands refer, you put? There's a problem put off he used for services. One hundred million acres of overgrown lambda need treatment more than a high risk of fire.
You spend three hundred million dollars a year to them. The forest covers about three the work cat needs to do doubling the budget. Come closer fishing, the job. What will it cost What I can tell you is more money than is likely to be available. We will never have enough money to treat all of the land within budgetary limits, Jim Herbert of the forest services, careful not to make any promises. His agency can't keep. We can eliminate fire and we can't restore the forest with just a ten thousand acre tree, but we might be able to reduce the risks to a community with that. But for service officials decide where to treat using a risk analysis to accord sounding term specially the decisions they may mean that some places Wilbur, but they dont analyzed
That's got every treatment, so there's no way to tell if what they're doing is preventing home from burning. Now it certainly be done. Nationally regionally- and now we're trying to make sure that the forests and the districts understand how to use the tool. And I wouldn't say where they're everywhere, but it's coming fast, Jimmy The forest service has fallen short of its treatment goals. The last couple of years, because. Forming alliances with private military and state landowners, and we can do treatments, but if we want to be effective, it requires all of us acknowledging the problem that we will need to man unplanned wildfire in ways we have in the past.
thanks to reveals Eric Cigar for bringing the sad story. Now we see what happens when wildfire tears through a city or town What happens next when we come back here, how some developers of profiting off of wildfires in rebuilding homes in places that stand a good dance of burning down again, I've only put five hundred injured I saw that to the neighbouring for thirty five honoured. That's next reveal from this therefore, investigative reporting and p r, exe
from the centre for investigative reporting in p r ex this is reveal a malleson when we talk about wildfires objects may be closer than appear people in your no Arizona, ninety miles, North western Phoenix learn that the hard way back in two thousand thirteen there tat became a national example of how expensive in dangerous it can be to try and take a wildfire you're, no hill, fire to the lives of nineteen, specially trained firefighters, Granite mountain hot shot. Now that was the most death, of wildly firefighters, since nineteen thirty's, the fire. Also drawing more than one hundred homes fast forward from two thousand thirteen to today, and surprisingly, development in the area is going strong. Homes have being rebuilt, even though the threat of wildfire is still there, feels Emmanuel. Martinez takes us there, the urine
hill fire started on a Friday with a lightning strike. It was small at first about half an acre and it wasn't supposed to get much bigger. It was far enough from town that it caught Brian Smith off guard. I got calls a fire and I kept looking around and I see no fire bright It is a lanky retired chemist to wear glasses, held together. What scotch tape lived in your now for almost ten years, it's a real, old town in an unincorporated part of you have a pie. County brain ended up here because of his dad he was tired of the desert is hard Hill and then retired appear because of the breeze. Actually, so peaceful a sign on the edge of town describes it as a place where the desert. Breeze meets the mountain air. Those same breezes can turn into powerful gust of wind without warning,
On top of that, the region was bone dry. Fifty years had passed without a major wildfire when the twenty thirteen fires start- It threatened to neighbouring towns. Two days later, a thunder, storm hit the area its forty miles. An hour wins carried the fire straight towards the weeds bushes, an trees at brushed against many of the houses in your now. Barks and embers started come in this way. Time of the year. Things are pretty dry. You know where were they landed with poop pick exploded, One of those embers landed on brains, porch ignited it I went and watered it in the bushes started, exploding all around me and embers, and I thought wholly Moses S. It's the burning bush, it's time to get the hell out of here. First, though, brain had to run back inside, he was taking care of his. Only ill. Eighty four year old, cousin at the time,
her idea in my idea, and we laughed. We left everything just we left it. The word, whatever happened was gonna happen authorities had issued evacuation orders for your now on Sunday afternoon before the fire reached people's homes. Brian says in his cousin waited for hospice workers who promised to pick them up when nobody arrived brain flung his cousins arm over his shoulder and walked outside in shorts and flip flaps. To allay skip on fire Pretty well determine them You know gonna get her out of here and whenever Chuck It was slow going, claims around them were as high as it two story house. They had.
Slog about a quarter of a mile through thick black smoke before they found help along the way brain heard, tyres and propane takes explode. He and his cousin did not get burned. But their lungs took a beating. I spent the next six hours in a hospital, so I didn't really. You know what had happened until after they have released me. It wasn't safe to go back for about a week. When Brian returned home he saw the porch was charred, but his house was still standing the rest of town wasn't as lucky. The fire left a quarter of houses in your now in ashes to another man in town it looked like hell, that's veto, Austin, a general contractor in the three years since the fire he and others. Jump started a lot of home building around your now we meet up with them. Outside a house he's working on has got manual
He did not see the area until after the fire was out and all the vegetation. Was burned away. I mean every Three other lot, you looked at looked like some just whip through there and destroyed everything. They had and laughed skeletons meaning the watershed has a driver, the regulators, the fire awesome left the foundations plumbing in electrical wiring. Luckily, for contractors like veto, it's easier to rebuild on properties like that he does We are now before the fire as landlocked, meaning nobody wanted to sell their houses now after the fire is a land of journey, neighbor cause veto, yarn, Nels Monopoly man, because he knows a good deal when he sees one like the empty lot he spots, while we're talking, I'm gonna buy it and I know you like Belarus on it in many
parts of the. U S. There are few restrictions on where people can build or rebuild research at the university was Wisconsin study this. They found that about it, where the houses Lawson wildfires are rebuilt within five years. So home nerves are either willing to face the risk of wild fire or their new. The area, and they don't know what therein for you're. No about half of the house's lessen the fire are in some stage of rebuilding veto, says That's burned down can sprout worthwhile possibilities on the same land. A vision pick up a visa partial has a second Just a minute has the water and has a drive. Is it little mother in law house already on it and flip it? You know by building a nice home and help rebuilding the community. The county can't stop people from building in places that have burned down and might just burn again. Somebody owns a piece of land. It's up to that person to decide whether to rebuild local govern.
Has it made new zoning rules since it twenty thirteen fire, but it does require new construction to meet fire codes that require materials that prevent fires from spreading when homeowners don't choose to rebuild, it opens the door for developers, big companies and small timers, like veto to flip and profit from abandoned properties. All new. When veto explains the math behind this, he gets pretty excited. I've only put thirty five hundred into it. I saw it. The neighbor for thirty five hundred more bitter hopes to buy from people who have chosen to move away from your now, but most homeowners aren't going anywhere but includes Brian Smith. This is where my wife and my grandkids, my family. You just said the memory of those nineteen fire fighters who died on June thirtieth, two thousand thirteen still hans him. I didn't even know that later on,
and then they are all about age. My grandchildren, most of those We were in their twenties and wallet I can't say much more. The are hill fire burned, more than eight thousand acres and Cosmo eight and a half million dollars in property damage. He sums up the where he feels about surviving the fire to me and my colleague Eric fire again now, I'm not afraid of it. Thanks to reveals a manual Martinez for that story. Residents. Likewise, myth may say they're afraid of nothing, but maybe They should be just as summer three.
After the yearning he'll fire, another one scorched, four thousand acres. On the other side of town. This time houses burned and nobody die. So what does it take to get a community to change, to take steps to protect their homes for Flagstaff Arizona? It took catastrophe so big that the town couldn't ignore the threat any longer. It happened in June two thousand ten and got a lot of courage from local tv stations like ABC fifteen, in Arizona flame from us That's fire are approaching people's backyards defence moving Schulz. Fire has certainly left its mark and what has taken days to burn one I'll take decades to recover during the shields fire fifteen thousand acres burned and one thousand people were evacuated. Now no one died at the time, but a couple weeks later, monsoon
AIDS triggered a deadly landslide, see really hot fire like this one, basically Milt soil into glass wardrobe. It's right off and when there's enough rain, it runs right down the mountains into the town, families and fight staff cleaning up her floodwaters rushed through that area catching many off guard thousands of homes, damage and even a twelve year old. What was killed, but the worst may still be the cop. Instead of waiting for things to get worse, Flagstaff did something different well, they're voted overwhelmingly to invest in a safer landscape them in sending the force teaching people too a brush and get rid of anything around their houses. They can fuel fire and completely transforming their fire department. Not when you think of a firefighter, you tend to think of them. Rushing around town and those big red engines mean that's the job right, but in Flagstaff these days the job sounds more like this
beautiful some fire fighters who you say they spend Ninety percent of their time on prevention, like thinning, dense, unhealthy force. It's a radical shift. Pills I trees, Condor Roger hung out with members of the Flagstaff Fire Department. They showed him what they're doing to keep their own town from burn. There's a little money out. This is probably get we're taking our track. I'm out here with wild land fires supervisor from the Flagstaff Fire Department, Schuyler, Laughlin, he's energetic funny, and fire expired You can see kind of where our decals got burned off a little bit, see that he's pointing at the Flagstaff fire crest on the side of his truck melted off, because the fire you that was so hot but responding to fire is less and less part of the job, so rang out we're looking at about ten to twelve folks cunning
off of trees and their dropping trees down onto the ground. A crew of city, firefighters, is out here next to cutting down small and medium Ponderosa City, Making sure is cuts are lined up so that she's gonna drop exactly where it wants to right where he wanted it next to the pile when people think a city fire department. This is pro the last thing that will come to their mind: Schuyler, not your typical city firefighter. He worked for Wally Covington Research Institute for years. He collected data on fourth throughout the southwest. In knows the dangers and unhealthy forest compose the biggest threat for the city of Flagstaff is Wildman fire. The number one threat to peace as we don't see that threat for what it actually is, the seventy thousand people who live in Flagstaff there are
King mountain baking outdoors crowd and they loved that their town is encircled by the largest contiguous ponderosa pine Forest in the country. They, like most of us, see lots of trees and think that's a healthy forest, but fire fighters, Schuyler seed that same forest as a potential ring of fire around the city, the by product of a hundred years of timber policy that promoted, dense growth in forest management that suppressed all fire from the forest. The trick is getting the people of Flagstaff to see it that way, Unlike most of the places we visited this hour, they were able to recognise that threat and act on it. We had this whole social change and black therefrom from cutting any trees. Now, though, we need We need to take out some free, so we don't all of our countries.
You know landmark both the residents of Flagstaff approved funding, to cut down trees to save the poorest and their town. It was a forward looking decision to turn back the clock on their ponderosa pines. Looking back in the past pre settlement times, this force was described more Savannah like which is I mean, if you think about that thinking of Ponderosa Pines and then like Savannah like this, and you could write a horse, forty miles an hour through the woods, and I had a dream, and now Schuyler team is turning this modern forest back into frontier Savannah. Most of clearing is done with logging machines, but the fine detail work can only be done with the painterly touch of a hand. Opera, It did change. So we don't want a uniform landscape. We try to make it what we call clumsy groupie, so we determined within a memory group, yep, comfy, groupie and that's it is the scientific tournaments. This kind of while that's a prescription right yeah, let's make some cookies here I want some crumbs
right now we're out here on design. We we say this is a group and within this group we want coms. Colombia. Groupie is the opposite of a dark, dense forest. There's lots of open space around clumps of trees. It's also fire safe. If lightning strikes in a clumsy groupie forest fires sweeps along the ground, clearing underbrush, dead things and lots of little trees. Right now, the forest still has dense patches of these small trees. That would be explosively flammable young pines are sometimes called ladder, fuels because flames climbed up one tree jump to a slightly bigger one till they reached the tallest tree tops that's when a mild fire turns into a dangerous wildfire, but there's only so much schuyler and his team can do out here to reduce the risk to people and property residents have to chip in to protect their own homes. As he drives
back towards town, we pass a neighborhood nestled into the fourth Anne Schuyler points out the window. Some residents aren't doing themselves any favours if there is fired starting here. This is gonna get high. He stacked up firewood all against his wooden fence. That leads all the way to his home and its right of underneath trees. Basically, there's a trail of kindling leading right to their doorstep. You know I would recommend sir, is maybe not Thailand firewood underneath all these trees against his wooden fence that leads to your home. We would Men piling this maybe uphill of slope and away from many trees. You know, open areas. So if there was a member to land and there, it wouldn't consequently burn up the word burnt up before burn up your wooden fence and then your home- educating homeowners, so they don't make stupid mistakes is a full time job here for Jacqueline burn.
Thus, these burn your good. I think he's gotten that before and has a genuine is a dedicated specialist at the Flagstaff Fire Department who helps neighborhoods adapt to fire. Some of the most desirable neighborhoods here, push in the forest. All over America developers keep building further and further out into wild, and and people who want to live in the beauty of nature, with the amenities of a nearby city keep moving it to where we are so right now we're in Time canyon, this neighborhood from the ground up use firewire construction and by fire wise. She means the planters of this neighbourhood used fire resistant building materials. They created several entry and exit points for fire fighters and they made or the yards here are clear of dry leaves and brush around each house. If I were to come to
never had. They would be pretty well protected. There's a lot of defensive space. They have great access here, federal state and local agencies partner. To set these steps. There are more than a thousand communities recognised as fireflies. We feel comfortable. Was firefighters coming into this area and being able to defend these homes. So does the gold standard? This would be a gold standard neighbourhood. Yes, the people, a Pine union have to be gold standard, showed a fire start to the south of Flagstaff heard they would be the first community that would be impact it, but it can cost hundreds of dollars to hire someone to cut down a dead tree on your property, maintaining back. Space can take time and money. As I looked around at pine, canyons, manicured lawns, with dry, wasteful of Bmw's and benzes I had to ask Jacqueline, is only only possible to have a gold standard wise
He doesn't need to be a wealthy community as a good question. Most of the time it does for low, for income communities that can afford to keep up with maintenance, german doesn't ticket people. Instead, she offers cash prizes for the best design fire safety arts. We really try to add just to encourage more positive feedback loop with that code to monitor yes, more of the care less of a stick. Other than that german relies on local building codes that require new developments to manage their own thinning and keep their property clear of fuels. She understands that public outreach only works as part of a bigger picture, so we can show them, and then we can educate on that. The idea is to stay we're doing for action on a grand scale on this landscape scale,
prevention. Work isn't just happening in neighborhoods like the one airlines in or city on land like that treating operation, a large part of it is happening unfair. Oh forest service land, we don't have to walk all the way down there. Just kind of wonder. Come out here, and I can assure you that area that we're gonna be treaty in over the next couple of years. Matt Belarus is another program director from Flagstaffs Fire department. He takes us to the base of the Dried Lake Hill in the casino national forest. The overall goal of the project is to reduce the risk of large high intensity, catastrophic fires and the flooding that can happen after a large fire, we're close to where the Schulz fire happened at home when they burned. Fifteen thousand acres back and twenty Tannen triggered a fatal lands
now. This place is still a risk. There'll be a lot of trees that will be removed here, which will really change the way that the fourth looks by the I'm mats done, they may remove more than half the trees. The small a medium ones in particular, but it doesn't stop their face too. Will move to the top of the mountains eventually this this whole area will have been treated, he's pointing to a peak about ten thousand feet, logging machines can't reach there, so they need to use helicopters to deny the trees on the highest steepest slopes its ambitious and expensive. But it's part of the same plan. Nearly three quarters of the town voted to approve the people are Flagstaff are very aware of the hazards, traffic fire and their very pro active in in casting a vote to approve.
Ten million dollar bond to do this forest finian work, which I think is really unique situation. They approved it because economically, they make sense. A captain of Flagstaff fire. Put it like this. His department spent eight thousand dollars on passing a and worth ten million aimed at preventing five hundred million in damages. Remember first, there is in these areas where the wild meets the residential are crazy, expensive, the Schulz fire alone, which didn't actually burn a single structure, cost twelve million dollars to fight and another hundred and forty million in recovery costs like property damage. I think about some of the larger fires that cost a hundred million dollars or more, I think, about the amount of Senator forest treatments that could be done using that money mats new on this project. Before this he would
for years as a hot shot. Theirs, like the Navy seals of fire fighting. They drop in and work on, putting out to some of the biggest most dangerous fires in the country and in the off season who's going to school to get his masters degree in environmental science, and now he appreciates the slow preventative work of trees up a mountain. I think that the prevention side is, you can for many years, and you know that the effects may not be apparent right away. I, whereas, when you work in a suppression, few go to a fire new work there for a few weeks. You know you can you can see her progress daily in Algeria, the Irish yeah exactly and so that's rewarding but I just try to remember that, for my view, maybe that's not the right thing I should be doing. You know, I think I know enough now about fire, ecology and the importance of fire in the landscape, that
They will enjoy working in this project, because what the Ngos are the goal, keeping the next big wildfire from happening. Now the city's approach work everywhere, and the money to try new preventative measures must always be there. But for now Matt looks over the forest. Most of the slender trees he's cutting down are younger than he is, but of what he's doing works the trees that remain could be around for another site. Hundred years that peace was from reveals by trees, God Roger now, there's no question wildfires getting worse like moths to a flame humans, are moving closer as I'm speaking a hundred Sixteen wildfires burning across the United States global, This is one reason number wildfires is growing. It also contributes to our shrinking fresh water supply
come back. We bring you the latest on our search for some of the biggest water wasters in the state of California. In our quest to find the white prince of Bel AIR. This is reviewed from the centre for investigate reporting in p r exe. From the centre for investigative reporting in p r eggs. This is reveal a mallet all this episode. We ve been talking about the growth of wildfires. Now we want to switch gear in talk about water or, more to the point, the lack of it. Happens when our water runs out, when the rain stops the rest wars dry up, and tat no longer flows but drips five Here's into a major drought. Californians are feeling it Sligo. Ass people to conserve, but last year reveals Cathisma scowl ski uncovered. The hundreds of California are soaking in stuff, ignoring the crew.
She's in wasting water like there's no tomorrow she went on a hunt for biggest water waster. In a story we called the wet prince of Bel AIR I'm in LOS Angeles tooling, around with Steve Cash or of L. A insider tours power, as the biggest usually Steve takes tourists Bel AIR in Beverly Hills to guard at the luxury. You can see it from the street that is like David beckons, driveway little Corner of Tom Cruise this house how This is probably the wrong word. These are estates mansions, impulse to opulence Some of them are thirty thousand square feet from the street. It's pretty hard to see much since man your cloistered behind towering gates and hedges. Password guys House now said Margaret twenty five million dollars today we are not here trolling for celebrities, but for it
stream, water wasters, green everywhere. You have no idea here and tell me: no. No, it s a place. It has now been finding out exactly who is using that water or over using it is a lot harder than following a star math. The water agency wouldn't hear the names of the mega water users, but we give up reporter lance. Comes along with data journalists. My Corey kept the hunt going this time, I'm using NASA satellites to help my joined, in the studio. Unlike what did you find? We found seven homeowners in the bell or neighbourhood that were using a lot of water, and these are the people we think are most likely to be our top water user, who we know from up of garbage request. Had you eleven point: eight million gallons of water in a single year. That's enough water four and ninety average families in California. So we
and say with certainty that this guy is the one guy, but we found homeowners who were using millions and millions of gallons of water Who are they here? It's not your house. Old names like Alice celebrities, but if people with a lot of money, one of the houses is actually the better we hillbillies mansion the mansion that was used in the Beverly hillbillies, which has been greatly expanded Some of them have like artificial utter falls there who own NBA teams or part of the Dodgers people who, on part of the come stay warriors television executives that kind of thing, so they may not be a list as far celebrities, but there are at least as far as their financial income. Oh yeah, you guys are donors, did anyone talking most of them. One come and found it all. One person said through a spokesperson that they take the report seriously that was about it, but my favorite part about since, after doing a lot of really complex, math and trying to predict how much water they actually used, one person
that is their water bill and said that our estimate is actually pretty accurate. We estimated that he is between two informed. Million gallons of water and turned out that he had used four million gallons of water, so that was a pretty good day from it, and in did he have any regrets about the notice said I gotta big property and that this is how much water takes to water a big property. He said he stepped up as conservation efforts, but I am to some extent that's a realistic So you're gonna keep law and big properties green like that. Yet that is how much water it takes. You have it in a job like get video grass, Well, I organised remove, got rid of my grass. I think that's the reaction lotta be ploughed, so explain to me how you use the satellite data and some old fashioned reporting to pinpoint these water users What we do is we take advantage of some of the interesting properties of light that you, member from my high school signs class, so number that there's like the red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple part of the rainbow that you can see, and you know that
there's, like infrared and other things like that. There are further out on the spectrum that humans can't see, but there's cameras. Satellites that use those wavelengths that we can't see and take pictures of that just like. We take pictures with care and then we do some some math with that. Basically takes advantage of the fact that plants really like to absorb as much red light as possible for photosynthesis, and they want to flecked back as much near infra, red light so late in the infrared part of the spectrum, as they can, because that's just heat So if you use the ratio of that infrared light to the red light, we can tell how efficiently plants are doing photosynthesis. Fun stuff. So, basically, like you can tell that there's a lot of plants on x, property, and that tells you that they have to be using a lot of water. We can say, like we want a fine properties that are very green, very wet and very large and sort of a dynamic
Action is where we're going to find our biggest water users. So why did you do this? I mean if people can afford to pay for them, then, when I let him have any what differences If we know their names is, is just about shaming people. I've been through. Good question, but the bottom line is even though these guys, I'm doing anything illegal. Anyone emphasise that, but I just can't think of a real source that is more a public resource than water, there's only so much water, we all have to share it, I think that if we are to have an intelligent conversation about how that water should be used think we need to know how that water is being used them, and I think if so, they blew my mind that there are people who own, like thirty acres and Bel AIR I've been watermelon in two years. I should say: go back. I am particular Jerry Francesco who is a former ceo of innovation. They kind of seems that up Are we talked to him pretty soon
after that I got some new satellite photos and it looks like you stop watering his long. So for one thing, I think the publicity does get people to change their behaviour because they know people are aware of it, but I think I like it. I just think it so water such an important resource that we all share. I think we should get to know who is using it since we first for this toy. Last year's state law makers took action. What happened actually, response are partially to Lance and Katharine's earlier stories. Governors They Brown signed a law that requires local water agencies for the first time to set limb. How much water residential customers can use? You state why water emergency has been declared rashly, not state why water emergency right now, but the next time that one is declared Someone goes over the new restrictions. They actually be fined up to five hundred dollar it is for every seven hundred gallons. They go over the limit, and
law also makes the names of anyone who violates the law public. That's reveals Michael Glory, they should jointly thanks. Now a story about a mile. I've got my bird upside down and I'd like to take advantage of that right, then, what are you haven't, became the prince of a town called Bel AIR or show was able to buy, showed war like she's going to Roger was Lee producer. Eric cigarette and a manual Martinez reported for today show, with contributions from Scott fab agenda for the floor sound design team is the wonder, twins my man, Jake Breezy, Mr Jim Briggs, and clear signal Molly. I hit studios Crystal far from birth Amy powers are editor in Chief Suzanne, rivers are executive, editor and our executive producers, Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is I come Morocco lighten support for our views, Provided by the Raven David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John Dene Catherine Team Carter Foundation. The Jonathan
The aims of night foundation and the ethics of excellence in journalism foundation reveals the culprit. Centre for investigative reporting and p r eggs from our lesson and remember, there is always more to the story. these are last few shows of the year, and let me tell you in twenty twenty we are bringing the fire. Launching some of our most ambitious projects we ve ever done. I can wait for you to hear them reveal is all about going deep. Pulling on threads telling stories that matter and this kind of investigative journalism. Well, it takes time and it costs money. These are the final. Of our end of EU membership campaign. We depend.
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Transcript generated on 2019-12-24.