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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Preventing the Dixie Hearth

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Wildfires have all the time been a standard a part of life within the American West. Throughout a typical yr within the late twentieth century, fires burned about 500,000 acres a yr in California — an space equal to roughly half the scale of Rhode Island.

Over the previous decade or so, the variety of fires has held pretty regular. However their depth has modified. The bottom is drier, as a result of local weather change has lowered the quantity of snow that comes down from California’s mountains and since droughts are extra frequent. “Every part is burning extra intensely,” Robert Foxworthy, a former firefighter who’s now a spokesman for the state’s Division of Forestry and Hearth Safety, advised us.

The state of affairs shouldn’t be so completely different from what local weather change appears to have executed to hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean: They aren’t essentially extra frequent, however they’re extra intense.

For California and the opposite components of the West, wildfires have change into ferociously destructive. The typical variety of acres burned within the state exceeded a million from 2015 to 2019, which means that fires yearly burned an space better than the scale of Rhode Island. Final yr, greater than 4 million acres (which is bigger than Connecticut) burned in California, and this yr the quantity is round 2.5 million thus far.

Collectively, the previous two years of California wildfires have burned an space bigger than the entire acreage of New Jersey or Vermont. “The hearth state of affairs in California is unrecognizably worse than it was a decade in the past,” Michael Wara, a Stanford College scientist, has told The Times.

The most important fireplace this yr has been the Dixie fireplace, which started on July 13, about 100 miles northwest of Lake Tahoe. The hearth could have been brought on by a tree that fell on an influence line, sparking a brush fireplace that rapidly unfold. It will definitely grew to embody greater than 960,000 acres.

This morning, The Occasions revealed an article — based mostly largely on movies — that tells the story of the fight to defeat Dixie.

The trouble has concerned greater than 6,500 folks, utilizing lots of of plane, vans and bulldozers. The command heart alone, which took over a county fairgrounds, got here to resemble a makeshift city.

As our colleagues write: “Every morning at 7 a.m., lots of of firefighters, bulldozer operators and pilots gathered below a poplar grove for a day by day briefing. Some crew members wore sweatshirts bearing the names of previous massive fires like badges of honor: Creek fireplace, Camp fireplace, Lightning Advanced. Dixie already had one, too.”

Dixie is now largely below management. However lots of the firefighters and different employees who defeated it really feel like they’re dropping the bigger struggle.

“Fifteen years in the past, a 100,000-acre fireplace can be the biggest fireplace of your profession. Now, we now have one-million-acre fires,” mentioned Kristen Allison, who has been a firefighter for the previous 25 years. “In the meantime, there are 5 different 100,000-acre fires burning proper now in Northern California.”

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Matt Amodio doesn’t come off as an aggressive particular person. He’s a self-effacing graduate scholar from Ohio who hopes to change into a pc science professor. However Amodio can be a strategically ruthless “Jeopardy!” participant on the second-longest winning streak in the show’s history.

His greatest benefit is his broad information, gleaned partly from studying Wikipedia pages late into the night time. However he additionally advantages from a Moneyball approach to the sport, on the lookout for nearly any small benefit.

He begins nearly each response with “What’s … ,” moderately than losing psychological vitality on selecting amongst “What,” “Who” or “The place.” He pauses after saying “What’s …” even when he appears to know the reply, to double examine himself. When the right response is an individual, he provides solely the final title, to keep away from a pointless mistake on the primary title.

He additionally makes use of a betting technique — aggressive early, usually cautious later — that maximizes his probabilities of successful the sport, moderately than maximizing his successful greenback complete.

As of Friday’s present, Amodio, who’s a graduate scholar at Yale, had received 38 video games, nonetheless a good distance from Ken Jennings’s file of 74. Amodio has one way or the other managed to change into well-liked even among the many gamers he beats, The Ringer’s Claire McNear reported: When his complete winnings exceeded $1 million, he obtained a standing ovation from the defeated gamers within the room.

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