Popular Science

How parched states like California fight wildfires

You can battle a record-breaking blaze even while trying to conserve water.
The Mendocino fire in California.

The Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire that now spans an area the size of Los Angeles, continues to rage on.

Mark Ralston/Getty Images

Twin blazes sparked almost two weeks ago in Northern California have flared into the largest wildfire the Golden State has seen in past 100 years.

In a drought-prone landscape like California, says Scott McLean, deputy chief at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, frequent fires are nothing new. But the damage they’re causing is increasing. Almost 350 square miles burned in the state between January and August of 2017, and that number has almost tripled in the same time frame of this year, with close to 1,000 square miles already torched.

“On average, we respond

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