Burning California to save it: Why one solution to raging wildfires can’t gain traction

Firefighters conduct a prescribed fire burn near South Lake Tahoe, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. "These projects were designed to minimize the fire risks – we can't eliminate it," said Milan Yeates, of the California Tahoe Conservancy. BY RENÉE C. BYER


On a crisp, breezy February morning near Lake Tahoe, a crew of five firefighters descended on a snow-covered, heavily-forested park straddling the California-Nevada border.

They came to start fires, not put them out.

Armed with gas and diesel drip torches, they lit stacks of tree trunks, limbs and brush that had been cut and piled together 18 months earlier. Within minutes the firs and pines were going up in spires of brownish-gray smoke. The crew, clad in protective fire jackets and hard hats, periodically poked the piles with pitchforks to make sure everything burned.