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Oct 8, 2016

America’s ring of fire

Co-produced with PRX Logo

UPDATE, June 17, 2017: Host Al Letson speaks with Ross Hauck from the Kansas Forest Service, the smallest forest service in the nation. That became a problem for Hauck this spring when the state’s largest wildfire in history burned hundreds of thousands of acres. An updated version of the original episode can be heard on this page.

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

As the number of wildfires increases, they’re also causing more damage than before. We learn from Reveal senior data reporter Eric Sagara that this isn’t a problem exclusive to the Western United States – more and more Americans are building homes in wildlands across the country.

Next, we hear from data reporter Emmanuel Martinez about the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. That disaster took the lives of 19 specially trained firefighters, destroyed more than 100 homes and burned more than 8,000 acres. But it hasn’t scared people away from living in Yarnell. Three years later, about half the homes lost in the fire have been rebuilt, even though the threat of wildfire is still there.

And one Arizona town has a solution to its wildfire problem: It’s cutting trees to save the forest. Producer Ike Sriskandarajah takes us to Flagstaff where residents voted to invest in transforming their fire department and landscape to prevent the dense forest surrounding them from turning into a ring of fire.

Finally, we head to California, where water agencies withheld the identity of a single home using 11.8 million gallons of water during a crippling drought year. Our senior news applications developer Michael Corey turned to satellites and some fancy math to zero in on the Wet Prince of Bel Air.


  • Read: When spark meets sprawl: Building in wildlands increases fire risk


Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mary and Steven Swig.

Track list:

  • Camerado, “True Game (Reveal show theme)” (Cut-Off Man Records)
  • Jack Rose, “Tree In The Valley” from “Luck In The Valley” (Thrill Jockey)
  • Loch Lomond, “Seattle Denver Arms (Instrumental)” from “Pens From Spain Instrumentals” Needle Drop Co.()
  • Loch Lomond, “Violins and Tea (Instrumental)” from “Pens From Spain Instrumentals” (Needle Drop Co.)
  • Scott Gratton, “A Way to Get By” from “Found and Lost”
  • Scott Gratton, “Forward Motion” from “Found and Lost”
  • Loch Lomond, “Violins and Tea (Instrumental)” from “Pens From Spain Instrumentals” (Needle Drop Co.)
  • Weinland, “It's Already True (Instrumental)” from “Breaks in the Sun Instrumentals” (Needle Drop Co.)
  • John Fahey, “Revelation on the Banks of the Pawtuxent” from “The Dance of Death & Other Plantation Favorites” (Takoma)
  • Billy Torello, “In Non Uso La Schimua” from “Il Passato Ha Gli Zoccoli” (Spettro Rec)
  • Ars Sonor, “Tabea” from “Raoul Wallenbergs Fantastiska Resa Genom Göteborg”
  • Ars Sonor, “Övergivna” from “Raoul Wallenbergs Fantastiska Resa Genom Göteborg”
  • David Szesztay, “80's” from “Cinematic Indie” (Needle Drop Co.)
  • Michael Howard, “Limelight (Instrumental)” from “The Martyr and the Magician (Instrumentals)” (Needle Drop Co.)
  • Gillicuddy, “Jupiter The Blue” from “...Plays Guitar” (Clinical Archives)
  • Lessazo, “Lendemain au caf” from “Soleil d'hiver” (Altermusique)
  • Micahel Chapman & The Woodpiles, “Goodwill Cowboys Ride Again” from “NATCH 7” (NATCH)
  • Robin Allender, “The Spirit Wooed (Instrumental)” from “Above the Dreamer's Head (Instrumentals)” (Needle Drop Co.)
  • Lessazo, “Lendemain au caf” from “Soleil d'hiver” (Altermusique)
  • Micahel Chapman & The Woodpiles, A Stranger's Map of Texas“” from “NATCH 7” (NATCH)
  • Jack Rose, “Cathedral et Chartres” from “I Do Play Rock and Roll” (Three Lobed Recordings)
  • SK, “Get To Know You” from “SK's Beats (Instrumentals)”
  • Will Smith, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air Theme Song”