Our new episode “Chasing Fire” airs tomorrow night, October 18, 2013 at 9:30p ET/ 6:30p ET on Al Jazeera America (and next Wednesday, October 23 at 6:30p ET on Al Jazeera English).
The United States now spends as much as two billion dollars a year on wildfire suppression. Fire seasons are becoming longer and more severe than ever before—increasing the threats to property and lives, and straining the federal budget. By mid-season, there have already been 38,000 wildfires and the US Forest Service diverted $600 million from other programs to fight them. Some say it is a war on wildfires that we cannot win. Fire intensity and the costs to American taxpayers are spinning out of control.
Several factors bring us to this pinnacle: Climate change has intensified droughts and brought higher than average temperatures. Decades of misguided fire management policies have left many forests primed for larger, more intense fires. And resources and priorities have shifted to protecting homes, as residential development booms in the wildlands of the American West. The costs grow exponentially as fires become more severe and the wildland more developed. Sprawling camps emerge overnight to house and feed thousands of firefighters on large fires. There is often a blank check for necessary supplies, equipment and aircrafts—much of it contracted out to private companies, making wildfire suppression a profitable and growing industry.
The wildfires that ripped through forests and communities this season have caused new levels of damage and devastation. The Black Forest Fire—the most destructive in Colorado’s history—destroyed nearly 500 homes and killed two residents. In Yarnell Arizona, 19 wildland firefighters died when a fast-moving brush fire overtook them. Their deaths devastated a tight knit community and reverberated throughout the country. Then the ferocious Rim Fire threatened Yosemite National Park and became one of the largest in California’s history, costing more than $100 million. And the season is not over yet…
Fault Lines follows the 2013 wildfire season, chasing the flames as they spread throughout the West. As millions of acres continue to burn each year, we examine what is going wrong with the war on wildfires and the true costs of putting them out.
This is a great episode, first airs tomorrow night on Al Jazeera America. More fire gifs tomorrow as we have time.
Livetweeting from my team happens -> @ajfaultlines with the premiere.
Here’s the full Fault Lines episode that aired on Al Jazeera English tonight on drones and the future of the US military.
Our final episode of the season, “Chile Rising,” airs next Monday, January 2nd, at 2230 GMT/ 5:30p EST.
Over the past decade, the US military has shifted the way it fights its wars, deploying more unmanned systems in the battlefield than ever before. Today there are more than 7,000 drones and 12,000 ground robots in use by all branches of the military.
These systems mean less American deaths. They also mean less political risk for the US when it takes acts of lethal force – often outside of official war zones.
But US lethal drone strikes in countries like Pakistan have brought up serious questions about the legal and political implications of using these systems.
Fault Lines looks at how these new weapons of choice are allowing the US to stretch the international laws of war and what it could mean when more and more autonomy is developed for these lethal machines.
I’m really biased—Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines pays me to manage their online presence when they are airing new episodes—and this is a really important episode on drones, bots, US military, tech, and future wars. I wouldn’t work for them if I didn’t believe they were the real deal as journalists.
All the Fault Lines episodes are over here; the team just won a duPont Award, which is kind of a big deal in journalism circles. First one for Al Jaz English.