forest fire

Eric Knapp breaks apart a burned pine cone, looking for seeds — in his line of work this is considered a clue.

"Going into an area after a fire, you almost feel like CSI, you know, sleuthing," Knapp says.

He is standing in a part of the Stanislaus National Forest that was severely burned by the Rim Fire. Knapp, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, is studying how forests recover.

"It's completely dead," he says. "These trees won't be coming back to life."

A lot of the forest was charred like this.

In the battle against wildfires, the Forest Service often draws on a fleet of air tankers — planes that drop fire retardant from the sky.

But the fleet shrank dramatically in the early 2000s, and by 2012, the Forest Service was woefully low on planes. Now, the agency is quickly increasing the number of planes at its disposal — and modernizing the fleet in the process by adding bigger, faster and more efficient planes.

Officials on the lookout for forest fires

Jul 19, 2012
Forest Fire_E Gregory_Flickr
E Gregory / Flickr

During a typical year, Missouri has a spring fire season and fall fire season. Summer is usually a downtime for forest fires. That’s not the case this year.

In June and July alone, there were 50 wildfires that burned more than 4,000 acres in the Mark Twain National Forest. Compare that to an average year, when about 5,000 acres burn over 12 months.