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Science of Survival Aug 14, 2018

The Sky Is Burning

Most wildfires quietly burn out, and we never hear about them. The Pagami Creek Wildfire was supposed to be like that. (Ron Koeberer/TandemStock)
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There are between 8,000 and 10,000 wildfires in the United States each year, but most quietly burn out and we never hear about them. The Pagami Creek Wildfire in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area was supposed to be like that. It was tiny and stuck in a bog surrounded by lakes. It was the kind of fire you could ignore. Computer models predicted that it would just sit there. But those models didn’t account for a rare convergence of atmospheric events that had prepped the forest for an unprecedented burn. And Greg and Julie Welch were camping right in its path. In the first of four episodes investigating American wildfires, we tell the Welchs’ extraordinary story and look at the factors that led to this very unexpected blaze.

The Sky Is Burning Podcast