A satellite image of a swirling hurricane Men with gas masks and protective suits on The planetary rover Sojourner A large group of refugees huddled together

 NATURE’S
 FURY

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Wildfires

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In the wildfire wars the infantry consists of 20-person crews whose main job is to construct “fire lines.” Using shovels, axes, and chainsaws, they clear strips of land around the fire, reducing the amount of burnable materials like plants and dead shrubbery. Sometimes they light fires between the fire line and the advancing blaze in order to remove even more potential fuel.

“Hotshot” crews are specially trained to work in remote areas for extended periods of time with little logistical support. “Smokejumpers,” the airborne troops, parachute from planes into remote and inaccessible areas to where wildfires often start.

Air support comes in the form of fixed-wing and helicopter tanker craft that can drop directly onto the flames up to 3,000 gallons (11,400 liters) of fire-suppressing chemicals per load.

Often, residents of small communities in the path of advancing fires join in trying to protect their homes. They clear out underbrush and other burnable materials and keep their property wetted down.

Sometimes it works.

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 Photo of a crew toward a blaze  Click on this photo to enter photo gallery
VIDEO:

Photographer Mark Thiessen narrates the efforts of a firefighting crew.

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AUDIO:

Photographer Mark Thiessen describes what it is like during a fire.

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AUDIO:

Photographer Mark Thiessen describes how a fire is put out.

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AUDIO:

Photographer Mark Thiessen describes the danger, snags and mop-ups of firefighting.

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AUDIO:

Photographer Mark Thiessen describes the clothes and boots of firefighting.

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AUDIO:

Photographer Mark Thiessen describes why firefighters do what they do.

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FAST FACTS:

Any living or dead material that will burn provides fuel for wildfires. Pine needles, grass and dead plants such as dry leaves burn more easily than moist, green plants.

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