Backyard Infernos

The worst Western fires in 50 years raise questions about logging, preparedness and urban interfaces

As the Pinesdale, Mont., volunteer fire department sprayed foam on the roof of his mother-in-law's new house, the man grabbed a baby picture off the refrigerator door and a few Mormon Scriptures from a shelf. There was no time to rescue larger items. The fires whirling down the mountain were just too near, filling the air with flurries of black cinders and sending up tall cliffs of orange flame. Overhead a massive Sikorsky helicopter dumped water into the smoke, but the time to stand and fight had passed. The man jumped into his truck and raced away, followed by the fire...

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