30 Jun '16, 5pm

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Richard Minnich, a professor of science at University of California at Riverside, likes to play a word game that sums up how confused the general public is about wildfires. It starts with a well-known slogan. “Smokey the Bear says, ‘Only you can prevent forest fires,’” Minnich says, then takes a pregnant pause. “Let’s change that last part. Smokey the Bear says, ‘Only you can prevent earthquakes.’ Or how about, ‘Only you can prevent tornadoes’ — except no one thinks that,” he says with a chuckle. It’s a lighthearted way of driving home a serious point: There’s no force of nature that we assume we can prevent besides wildfires. Yet we have no more control over wildfires than we do over earthquakes or tornadoes. Minnich is a fire ecologist, studying the relationship between wildfires and the environment. To a fire ecologist, wildfires are simply a natural process of decompos...

Full article: http://grist.org/article/smokey-was-wrong-you-cant-preven...

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