Are the ways fires are fought 'firewise?'

A wall of fire barreled through the forest with a jet-engine roar near Secesh Meadows last August, and local fire chief Cris Bent knew his work was about to be tested.

Flames danced atop lodgepole pines, smoke darkened the sky, and residents of the tiny mountain hamlet north of McCall prepared for the worst. Just a month earlier, a forest fire had burned 254 homes near Lake Tahoe and the 2007 fire season appeared ready to claim its next community.

But as the raging East Zone Complex fire reached the cluster of loosely-spaced homes, the flames dropped to the ground, crackling and smoldering. The fire crept right up to doorsteps. But without the intense flames that spurred the fire just moments before, no homes burned - a feat fire managers attributed largely to Bent's push to clear flammable brush from around houses in the community.

"It just blew through the area," Bent said. "We were well prepared."

Clearing brush and other flammables and requiring fireproof roofs will protect houses even in an intense wildfire - without risking firefighters' lives.

More provocatively, the research suggests that fighting fires on public lands to protect homes is ineffective and, in the long run, counter-productive.

It is also far more expensive.

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