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July 21, 2021

West U.S. Wildfires Are So Extreme That They’re Creating Lightning, Fire Whirls

Ask students: What is the immediate cause of these wildfires? When do extreme fires at higher elevations normally happen? What is extreme fire behavior? 


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Wildfires on the West Coast Wreak Havoc

More than 80 large fires are burning in 13 states across the U.S. currently, impacting nearly 1.3 million acres. One of the worst remains in Southern Oregon — the Bootleg Fire. It has been burning for two weeks and has already scorched an area a third of the size of Rhode Island. Carrie Bilbao with the National Interagency Fire Center joins William Brangham with the latest on the fires. Watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. To view the full video and transcript, click here

Five Facts: 

  • Who is Carrie Bilbao?
  • What is the immediate cause of these wildfires? 
  • When do extreme fires at higher elevations normally happen? When are they happening now?  
  • Why are these particular fires more of concern? 
  • What is extreme fire behavior? 

Discussion questions: 

Focus questions:

  • Bilbao mentions that rain would help control these fires, but in a drought that doesn’t happen. What are other ways authorities can prevent and prepare for these wildfires? Can you think of any long-term ideas to help with wildfire prevention? 

Media literacy: By broadcasting this story, what did the producers hope to achieve? What might the response to this piece be? 

Dig Deeper: 

  • To track the spread of wildfires in the US as Carrie Bilbao does, see this website.
  • For more from PBS on wildfires and droughts, see these stories 

This Daily News Lesson was written by EXTRA intern Cecilia Curran and EXTRA’s Victoria Pasquantonio. Curran is a sophomore at Amherst College.

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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