Timothy Egan: 2010 National Book Festival

Uploaded by LibraryOfCongress on 12.10.2010

>> From the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
>> My name in Kevin Solivan.
I'm the Sunday and Features Editor of the Washington Post,
which is a charter sponsor of this event.
I have to say that it's-- as a long time and very loyal employee
of the Washington Post, I've always found Timothy Egan
of the New York Times to be just incredibly annoying.
[ Laughter ]
>> The guy is freakishly talented.
He is also a very nice man, which I hate even more.
He was part of the 2001 series
in the New York Times called How Racist Lived in America,
that one that's full of surprise.
Not satisfied to squash the opposition that way, he had to go on
and started writing books.
He wrote one called the Worst Hard Time, which is a history
of the Dust Bowl, which naturally won the National Book Award.
[ Applause ]
>> Most recently, he has written--
[inaudible] here to talk about today--
is a book called The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire
that Saved America, which details the great fire of 1910 that burned
about three million acres and helped shape the modern US Force Service.
So Timothy, I just wanted to let you know, if you get tired
of conquering the world and you want to come for at work
for a real newspaper, we have a space
for you at the Washington Post.
[ Applause ]
>> Now, the Washington Post, is that a newspaper, or--
still being published, some kind of website?
No. Thank you so much.
As a fellow Irishman, and I'm cutting in tons of slack
and I told them I have the last word.
Welcome all of you.
Thank you for coming to this event.
I am a native of the Puget Sound region in Washington State,
and I think our high today is probably gonna be 62 degrees.
So I wish I could just hook up a giant vent
to that natural air-conditioning that comes off of Puget Sound
and pour it all into here and give you a little bit
of what keeps us cool.
But I can't.
So instead, I'm going to talk briefly about the biggest wild fire
in our history and two remarkable characters;
President Teddy Roosevelt,
and the incredibly excentric Gifford Pinchot,
and how these two easterners, these two sons of privilege,
actually changed the country for the better
and forever through this fire.
So let me talk about this, just give you a sense of the size.
It was exactly a 100 years ago last month, August 21, 1910,
that a wild fire broke out of the northern Rockies,
and we have never seen anything like it since.
In 36 hours, a day and a half, three million acres burned.
Now, how big is three million acres?
Well, as a westerner, it doesn't seem big,
but it's the size of Connecticut.
So it's all of Connecticut burning border to border in 36 hours.
This fire destroyed five towns, removed them from the map,
it killed about a 100 people, it burned in excess of 2000 degrees,
it leapt from tree to tree, going so fast that men
and horses could not outrun it, it was an absolute disaster
from every point of view; lost of lives, lost of woods,
lost of the ecosystem, except for it changed America.
It had this ironic effect of saving the fledgling United States Forest
Service, and therefore, saving this public lands dream
which was just this little fledgling thing that Teddy Roosevelt
and Gifford Pinchot started, and was nearly dead when the fire happened.
So I started wanting to tell a rather classic story of human beings
versus nature and that's really what I'm drawn to.
That's why I love the Dust Bowl story, because you have these acts
of hubris, you have people pushing the earth to the extreme,
you have people thinking they can outwit Mother Nature,
and then nature gets its revenge.
And I saw that in this fire too.
And I was gonna write this story that was just gonna be this geewhiz,
how cool is that fire story about, you know, incredible temperatures
and people diving into streams and having little estrus
for air while the fire jump over them so they could live and hope
that they-- well, being in the stream, it would spare their life.
But I got so drawn to this fabulous backstory
of Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot.
Now, a quick word about Roosevelt.
Most of you already know this.
He was our youngest president.
Of course, he became president after McKinley was assassinated.
That's youngest to assume the presidency not elected.
He wrote 14 books before his 40th birthday.
He was a very sickly child.
He was told that he would have to cultivate a life for the indoors,
that he should stay away from the outdoors,
and he said I will not live that way.
I will will my way to strength.
So he built his body up in college, he defied the doctor's predictions
that he could not be a man of the outdoors, and when he was young,
he fell in love with this absolutely gorgeous woman he met at Harvard,
and wrote this sonnets to her and talked
about her being the most perfect thing that he had ever seen or met,
marries her, gets a career in New York Politics
in the New York Assembly, and they [inaudible] branch
of the republican party.
In his young 20s, he is the--
on his way to being the top ranking republican in New York Assembly,
and then something absolutely catastrophic happens to him.
On Valentines Day, February 14, 1884, his wife,
his beautiful young wife is giving birth to their first child,
Alice was her name, on their home across the street from Central Park
on 57th Avenue in New York City.
She dies at childbirth.
Roosevelt is absolutely struck.
He is stunned.
He goes upstairs to the top floor of his townhouse he is living in,
and his mother dies on the same day.
So Teddy Roosevelt lose-- loses his wife and his mother
on Valentine's Day, 1884, and for those of you who are privileged
to look at the-- his diaries here, the Library of Congress as I did,
you see on February 14, this great writer, this prolific author,
this most amazing, this man who was--
who could dash off 10,000 words before noon in letters and prose,
writes a single thing on the diary page on February 14.
He writes a giant X, and he writes underneath that,
"The light has gone out of my life."
So he resigns his position in the New York Assembly,
he gives his young baby daughter to his sister to raise,
and he goes out west to Dakota Territory.
And there, he lives for almost two years
in about an area the size of this stage.
He has his books and his buffalo rug, and he has his fireplace,
and he runs cattle 14 hours a day, and the west makes him whole again.
The west makes-- gets rid of his grief.
And so, he says later, "I owe more to the west
than any other man can ever imagine."
But something else happened to him when he was out there.
He saw that the Eden of America, which he'd always dreamed
of as a little kid, the bison that roamed the plains,
the birds that blotted out the sky in the pacific flyway,
they were disappearing, that we were killing this Eden a hundred years
into our nation.
So it makes a sort of a conservationist of him,
even though there is no such word.
Now, fast forward.
McKinley is assassinated, Roosevelt is hiking in the Adirondacks,
he comes down prematurely.
It turns out they told him McKinley's probably gonna live.
Roosevelt goes back up into the Adirondacks,
the secret service comes and gets him again, and he comes all the way
out by horseback, by hiking, by buggy.
And this time, McKinley does die, and Roosevelt is made our president.
And he says, "I wanted to transform the Republican Party"--
his exact words-- "into a fairly radical party."
And part of his dream is conservation, public land,
that we're not going to be like Europe, where they'll--
you had to ask the lords of the manor
if you wanted to use the woods.
We're not gonna be like England, where less than 1 percent
of its land is owned by the public.
We're gonna take the great public domain,
that left over from Louisiana purchase,
all the land that we purchased from the European nations,
the land we pushed the Indians off of as well, and we're going
to give it to the public.
And in order to do that, he needs Gifford Pinchot, who is this,
I said incredibly excentric person, born of vast wealth.
He grew up in Gray Towers in Pennsylvania,
a castle that had 63 turrets and 27 fireplaces,
and he sleeps on a stone pillow.
He goes out by himself and prefers sleeping on the ground.
He is an esthetic.
He is very odd individual.
People can't figure him out.
But he also sees that this great dream of America is being ruined.
So Roosevelt gets Pinchot on as his top aid.
Now, Pinchot is to Roosevelt what Rahm Emanuel is to Barrack Obama.
He is Karl Rove to George Bush.
And they write that the way they came up with the idea
for conservation was during these episodes
of skinny-dipping in the Potomac.
So the secret service would hold their clothes
and they would be swimming nude, and one time,
the fresh ambassador joined them, and Roosevelt says
that the French ambassador said, "I insist on keeping my gloves."
Nude expect for his gloves.
And he said, "Why do you do this?"
And the French ambassador said, "There might be ladies present."
[ Laughter ]
>> So this is who these two individuals are.
They are rugged outdoorsmen, they go for these triathlons essentially
up in Rock Creek Park where they'll pound out six mile hikes,
scale these rock walls, and end up swimming nude in the Potomac.
Again, I can only imagine Emanuel nude in Potomac with Obama,
talks about health care reform.
And one other thing, just to throw enough-- another variable into this.
The love of Pinchot's live had also died.
This woman he was madly in love with had died at a young age.
>> But Pinchot then, because it was a psychic age,
fell in love with the ghost.
So for 20 years, Pinchot-- this is a secret that was not deciphered
until a 100 years later-- he was spiritually sealed to a ghost.
So he would write in his diary, had a great dinner with Teddy,
Laura enjoyed it as well.
And who is Laura?
Laura is the ghost who he-- appears with him.
And he wrote this all in code.
He would say, "Another bright day."
Bright day meant Laura appeared that day.
Or he would say a cloudy day when his long lost love did not appear.
So these are the two individuals founding American conservation.
Now, one more thing, and I'll get to the fire.
They're gifted, as you should be in politics,
by having fantastic enemies.
It is the gilded age.
It is-- there's never been a greater disparity of wealth in our history,
well, until just a few years ago as a matter of fact.
[ Laughter ]
>> So you had this one, United States senator,
Senator Clark from Montana, whose dream in life was
to be the riches person who ever lived.
And he accumulates 200 million dollars in the copper trade,
and he moves to New York.
He's the senator from Montana, and he builds this mansion in New York,
and he never goes back to Montana.
And he has one goal in life as a United States senator.
His one goal is to stop the creation of United States Forest Service.
He thinks this is horrible that they're going
to give the land to the people.
The land belongs to the gilded age robber barrens.
They can't do this.
Now, Mark Twin had called this Senator Clark,
just to give you a sense of how, well, you know,
we sort of lost the lost art of insults,
but this is what Twin said about Senator Clark.
"He is the most disgusting creature that the republic has yet produced."
Succinct to the point, you know, nails him.
So this is his enemy.
Also, he had an enemy in JP Morgan.
When Roosevelt left office in 1909, he went off to Africa,
and Morgan famously said, "I trust some lian will do its duty."
[ Laughter ]
>> He loved this.
He welcomed this.
Roosevelt welcomed their hatred.
He was a traitor to their class.
He said once, "There is not in the world a more ignoble character
than the mere money getting American,
insensitive to every duty regardless of principle,
bent only on amassing a fortune."
So they're outlet is the forest service.
They create by executive order more than 200 million acres who are--
it's this land that belongs to you and I.
They always talked about it belonging to the little people.
They would use that term, little people.
I guess, it didn't really mean people under 5 foot 4,
but that's the term they used.
And so, he leaves office in 1909, Taft takes over, President Taft.
Taft is the exact opposite of Roosevelt.
He is 350 pounds of insecurity, he claims all he wants
to do is take a long bath in the afternoon,
have a nap, and eat in peace.
He's conflict diverse.
And so, he lets the conservation dream die.
He lets this thing that Roosevelt and Pinchot put together,
just lets congress nibble it to death.
And they're dismantling the young United States Forest Service.
It's 5-year-old when on August 21, 1910,
a wind comes out of the southwest and kicks
up into 70 mile an hour winds, and starts this giant conflagration.
And that becomes the Big Burn.
Now, we had never tried to fight a wild fire
as a nation in our history.
We do now.
Anyone who grows up in the west knows that summers are full
of yellow-shirted men and women going around from fire to fire,
and half the budget of the forest service is trying
to prevent wild fire.
But we never did before.
So they assembled an army of 10,000 people, mostly immigrants.
They said, in a quote from Courier Magazine, " There were Scotsmen
and Negroes, Italians and Danes, Micks, Macks and Scandihoovians."
[ Laughter ]
>> And on top of that, you had African-American soldiers,
the buffalo shoulders, who are always sent around the west
to do the sort of dirty work.
They had to put down the labor insurrections, they had to go
into town that were under martial law for different labor problems.
They were sent to fight this fire.
So you had, in place, the young United States Forest Service,
all these immigrants, I traced the death
of these two Italian boys who'd come from this little tiny village
on the Italian-French border, and ended up dying in the American West
for 25 cents an hour in the service of Gifford Pinchot
and Teddy Roosevelt's dream.
They had this entire army of people, but they were helpless,
absolutely helpless when this fire blew up.
You know, there was a great t-shirt I saw
after the San Francisco earthquake which I covered
for the New York Times in 1989.
Remember, that was the World Series between Oakland and San Francisco,
and the earthquake interrupted the World Series,
and people had this t-shirt that said, "Nature bats last."
And that's the story of a Dust Bowl.
It's also that story of this fire.
They had 10,000 people in place, and they couldn't do anything.
They were utterly helpless.
Now, I want you to imagine what a 70 mile an hour wind is like.
It's classified officially as a hurricane force wind.
And I was a knucklehead once for a history channel documentary
where they're recreating the Dust Bowl storm,
and they fired up these giant fans.
They said, "Tim, just get up there in the ground over their."
And they brought this flatbed truck in these two giant fans.
They said, "We're gonna whip this thing up
and see what it does to you."
So they got up to 45 miles an hour, and they're like [inaudible].
They got up to 50, and I'm holding my ground.
When they got to 70, I was a tumbleweed.
I was just completely thrown back.
That's was this fire was, except that it was carrying, you know,
embers the size of a horse's thigh, and just burning detritus,
and it was leaping from tree top to tree top.
It was an utter-- they call these fires blowups.
They create their own weather systems.
It's a beast in search of oxygen.
So men would go onto these mining shafts to try to hide it out
and think they could-- they would live,
and the fire itself would steel the oxygen out of these mining shafts.
It would find them.
You had whole platoons of people died in these mining shafts.
Not of the fire itself, but of the oxygen that came and got them.
So the fire lasts 36 hours, burns the three million acres,
burns the five towns to the ground, kills a hundred people,
but Roosevelt uses it as do all great politicians,
as a mythic turning point.
These brave young Americans died on behalf of the conservation dream.
He makes it like losing warriors in battle.
He makes it not a losing cause, but he makes it a calling cause,
something that is worth fighting for.
So what happens?
You owe most of your forest, your national forest in the east coast
to this wild fire, because there was bill in congress
that had been stalled through all of Roosevelt's administration
that would have created national forests in Virginia, Pennsylvania,
New England, all throughout the east coast.
And it was always stalled.
After the fire happened, these young men were heroes,
it changed almost overnight.
The act passed, the forest service was expanded,
and the forest service was saved in and of itself.
So, you know, great politicians use events.
And, you know, not even great politicians.
But throughout history going back to earliest times,
people have used events, battles, catastrophes,
things to mold public opinion, to say,
"And this really was the founding myth
of the United States Forest Service."
So in conclusion, our legacy is--
I mentioned this in a column in the other day, and I got a lot
of email notes from people in Europe who were just actually jealous,
and I was sort of rubbing it in to old Europe.
We have an area twice, twice the size of France that belongs to all
of us, and its national parks, its national forest,
its Bureau of Land Management, its National Wild Life Refugees,
all of it is ours, it's our birthright.
You're born an American citizen, that's yours.
[ Applause ]
>> And my idea is that we owe this,
the survival of this public lands dream to this one event
from a hundred years ago.
By the way-- and I'll take some questions in a moment.
You can still see, if you go back as I did, to the northern Rockies
in Idaho and Montana where this fire burned.
Some of the skeletal remains of this great fire,
you'll see standing chard, just real dark and little skeletons,
bits of cedar or pine that were part of this thing.
But you can't see any indication of the towns.
I walked into these towns that were some
of the most brawling wide open saloon towns.
One young United States forest ranger, when he was sent to one
of these towns, they were in the national forest,
but they were like deadwood, they were like you know, drifter,
workers working on the railroad.
One forest ranger, fresh out of Yale, which Pinchot had endowed
to make the first forestry school, was shocked.
He sent a telegram back to Mazula forest service headquarters.
He said, "Two undesirable prostitutes setting
up business on public land.
What should I do?"
And some smart aleck got a hold of the telegram in Mazula,
and he wired back, "Get two desirable ones."
[ Laughter ]
>> And I was speaking last fall in California at a bookstore,
and a woman came up to me, and she pulled
out this little plastic folder, and she showed me the telegram.
It said, "Get to desirable ones."
He said, "That was my grandfather."
And I said, "That's so cool.
What a line."
You know, what a great line.
So our legacy is we have a United States Forest Service now that's
among, the-- you know, people don't think well
of federal workers generally, when you [inaudible].
But the forest service and the park service is very well thought of,
and our legacy is that public land as well.
So thank you.
I'll take some questions.

[ Applause ]
>> Thank you.
Two quick questions.
One is how did you get into the story?
I mean, how did you get motivated to do a story on the Big Burn?
It doesn't normally roll off one's tongue.
And second of all, how do we capture this moment of the BP oil spill,
et cetera, et cetera, to move the conservation movement further
to energy conservation?
>> Yeah. Great question.
In case you didn't hear, she said how did I get the story basically,
then how did we capture this movement?
Well, I grew up in the west.
I'm a third generation westerner, and you know,
we were big Irish catholic family, and we didn't a summer home,
we didn't have any extra land.
We had the national forest.
So my mom would haul all seven of us Egan kids, because my dad didn't
like to camp, and we'd go out in this giant smelly canvass tent,
and you know, seven kids.
I mean, it was great for us.
My mom went crazy.
But I love public lands.
I learned to love, you know, the high mountains of Montana,
the trout streams of Idaho, these beautiful lakes
that you'd dive into, just like Pinchot
and Roosevelt, skinny dip in them.
And I'd always sort of heard of this fire.
It had this sort of, you know, the Big Burn was background.
You know, the Big Burn was on a mystic lost
to the midst of times sort of thing.
And then when-- after I wrote the story about the Dust Bowl,
I guess I wanted to move from element, dust, to another, fire,
and just sort of go through the big elements, and again,
I wouldn't have done the book if it was just about the burn itself.
But I got so entranced by these two characters, Roosevelt and Pinchot,
and their early founding of the forest service,
and the ecos of our age right now, the fact that it was the high--
the peak of immigration that they actually passed laws
to keep Italians from coming into the country,
'cause it's the peak of Italian immigration.
There are two million Italians a year coming into,
and a lot of those guys-- well, not a lot--
but a number of them died in this fire.
I mean, it was amazing to go to Italy and see this grave
in this tiny little village up in the Italian--
not the [inaudible] on the French border, and listing the name
of these two boys, say died in the American West,
[foreign language], in this big fire.
So I love the parallel story to ours, with the immigrants
and with just the fascination of how you found something like that.
As to the other thing, how do you keep the movement going,
there is only really one way.
I don't look at this as a political thing.
I know it probably sounds political.
You know, love of the outdoors is something that--
it's like religion, I guess.
You have a moment at some point
where you see something that's beautiful.
Or you're on a walk, or you're going for a swim, or you catch a fish,
or you see a sunset, you just have some connection to nature.
You can't argue this abstractly.
You can, but it won't win converts over.
What happens is you have magical moments.
And I think, now, I was happy
to see the national park visitation figures are up this year
after being down for 10 years.
And you know what's the most used land in the United States?
It's Gifford Pinchot's National Forest.
They get something like 400 million user visits a year.
So I think that's how you renew the dream,
is you make people fall in love.
You introduce children to the outdoors.
All of my kids, you know, hike with me and love it to the extent,
as long as they can text and stuff.
[ Laughter ]
>> So that's it.
I went on too long.
Yes, sir?
>> How did Teddy Roosevelt respond or react
to Gifford's believed spiritual relationship with this dead person?
Did he believe she was with him all the time?
Or did they have to use a medium to communicate.
>> No. You can imagine what a scandal it would be--
again, if it got out in the press,
chief aid to president lives with spirit.
No. It was an age where a lot of people were visiting mystics
and going-- and I saw one of the letters that said to Pinchot,
"He shouldn't use these mediums.
He should use the better known mediums."
They said, "Don't use these promiscuous mediums
that sometimes bring the other spirits into the seance."
But Roosevelt never knew.
It was the best kept secret of Gifford Pinchot's life.
It was only deciphered about 10 years ago by a scholar
who noticed how he would talk about Laura, that was the woman's name,
by these coded words, by saying a bright day or a cloudy day.
Now, Pinchot told one person.
He lived with his mother on Rhode Island Avenue,
and he told his mother.
He wore black for a year after his beloved died, and then one day,
he showed up, the black-- he was not wearing black,
and he had a skip in his step.
And his mother said, "What's up with you, Gifford?'
He said, "I'm married."
And she said, "What?"
He said, "Yes, Laura and I are now sealed for eternity."
And she said, "Don't you ever bring this up again."
She said, "You will not be married to a dead person."
So he never brought it up again.
So, one person knew his secret; his mother.
And again, then a scholar deciphered it 10 years ago.
I wonder though, Roosevelt was not exactly a romantic,
though he did love the outdoors and he love poetry, and he was--
he had so many interests.
I mean, anyone who comes to Roosevelt sort of called,
those sort fall in love with him, 'cause his interests were so broad.
But I think if he knew this, he would have slapped Pinchot around.
And I have a scene, by the way,
where they're boxing in their undies.
It's when they first meet and Roosevelt is governor in Albany,
and it's a winter night, and Pinchot meets him, and you know,
they're sort of strange guys.
They don't wanna have a drink, they don't wanna-- they wanna fight.
So they stripped down to their underpants and boxed for 45 minutes,
and then they take a brake, and they wrestle, and Pinchot writes later
in his diary, "I had-- I'm a modest man, but I had a distinct pleasure
of knocking the future president of the United States on his pins."
[ Laughter ]
>> Yes?
>> Thank you for both of your books.
They were very easy to read and brings history alive.
I'm interested in your thought.
In The Worst Hard Time, I think you give a very vivid description
of the role that government policy, in terms of home steadying
and agriculture policy, contributed to the conditions
that led to the Dust Bowl.
And you know, given the contributing factors towards climate change
today, what are your observations in terms of some kind catalytic event?
>> The old tricky climate change question.
Well, they actually did change the climate in the Dust Bowl.
I mean, they ripped up an area more than a 100 million acres, an area,
you know, bigger than the size of Pensylvania.
That was part of the greatest grassland the world have ever known.
I mean, you had this delicate ecosystem evolved over 10,000 years.
You had 30 million bison roamed over, these great, you know,
herbivores who only needed grass to survive.
You had Native Americans who only needed buffalo to kill,
and you know, everybody got along pretty well.
This was the last great bit of settlement.
More people home steadied in the 20th century than home steadied
in the 19th, 'cause they doubled the Homestead Act to try to get everyone
to take up this land that had been called the great American dessert.
And I don't blame these people, because these are people
who were kicked around all over the globe.
They were the Scotch-Irish who had been the cannon fodder
on the confederate side of the Civil War, they were, you know,
Latinos that came up from the South, they were Germans
who didn't own land in old Germany, and they transported their
who villages intact from Germany or the Russian step,
and just plopped them down on the American Midwest, in some cases,
with the same name of the town.
So you have a Pfeiffer or a Katherine Step that's moved
from Russia or Germany and plopped down in the Kansas.
And they never owned a piece of dirt in their life.
No one in their own family had ever--
so I don't blame the people for getting
in on this last great Homestead Act.
It was a marvelous thing.
And for a while, it all looked like it was going to work.
But it didn't.
The rain stopped coming, this is a dry area, you can't farm their.
It's meant to be grass.
It's meant for cattle or bison.
You can't tear up this ground.
So in very short [inaudible], it's a mini-parable of climate change.
It really is.
And this isn't me who came to this conclusion.
This isn't-- these aren't scholars, these aren't people who are
on the payroll of Al Gore.
The farmers and the women and men who lived to this era,
who I was so privileged to spend so much time with,
they're leaving in the planet now.
They are all in their 90s.
They have this story inside of them.
I was so privileged to be able to able to sit down in their homes
in Kansas and Oklahoma and Texas and hear these stories.
They told me they screwed up.
They told me they pushed nature too far.
So when people ask me about the climate change questions,
it's really simple.
We-- they did change the climate.
They changed an entire ecosystem, and nature got its revenge.
It's what I said earlier about nature bats last.
And it doesn't take a scholar, or it doesn't take a politician
on the payroll to one of the big green agencies to tell you this.
These farmers told me this 'cause they saw what happened.
So I think we all need to-- by the way, I was really glad.
When my son was taking AP History in high school,
I looked at this history of book, real thick history book,
and I opened it up to the index to Dust Bowl, I was right in the middle
of my research, did one paragraph
on the Dust Bowl in the AP History book.
I was shocked.
And now, you know, so many people have taken to the story.
Ken Burns is doing a documentary next year, and he'll bring it
to a lot of people as well.
So I mean, a lot of people see this story for what it is;
a man-caused disaster that has so many great threads of history in it.
So I'm glad to see we're trying to learn from it.
And also, one final thing.
Again, I was so privileged to talk to those people before they left,
'cause they are just remarkable folks.
They're a little hard to get going after awhile, but--
especially the men who tend not to a motor talk unless you talk
in sports, but they were just fabulous.
I guess I have time for one more question.
>> My question is about urban fires.
I evacuated our home almost 20 years ago in Oakland,
California as we saw the flames come across.
Originally from the east coast, couldn't really grasp the idea
that a fire could jump three ways,
burn 3,000 homes, and devastate a city.
I understand the idea of a forest service focusing on large kinds
of forest fires, but what about the urban fires that go on?
>> That's a great question.
The number one thing that's sucking up all the money
in the public land agencies right now is fighting what they call the
Urban Wildland Interface.
And it's really simple.
In the last generation, 20 million people have moved into areas next
to public land, next to BLM, or forest service land,
that's part of a natural fire zone.
Nature wants to burn in those areas.
These are forest that need to burn, in some cases, every 20 years
for the trees to regenerate.
So you suddenly have 20 million Americans living in this fire zone.
There-- you know, that land didn't change.
We changed.
We moved to the fire zone.
And they often get upset at the public lands agencies,
and they don't like some of the rules and that.
But as soon as a fire breaks out, they want them there immediately.
They wanted them there to save them.
So it's an ongoing education.
And I've covered a lot of fires in the west,
dating to the Yellowstone fire more
than 20 years ago, and we've learned a lot.
I think people are starting to realize that if you're going to live
in that zone, you're gonna have certain things on your roof,
you're gonna have a little, you know, a little protection zone,
you know, it's different than the east coast.
It really is.
You are living in a fire zone, that's what it is.
Anyway, thank you so much.
I appreciate it.
It's a privilege to be here.

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