The Bootleg Fire, the Nation’s Biggest, Gives Scientists an Unexpected Experiment

An airplane drops a cloud of red powder over a forest.

It’s not often that we encounter good news about wildfires, but here is a report that comes close. This July 2021 Associated Press report presented by NPR recounts some of the moderate successes in wildfire mitigation efforts that scientists have been able to observe with the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.

Read it here.


1. The AP reports on the Bootleg Fire as well as the current wildfire situation in the western region of the US in general. The report presents dire statistics about wildfire damage and danger while also noting some success in employing different mitigation strategies. How well does the report maintain its focus despite its multiple topics? How did you arrive at your assessment? Explain your reasoning.

2. The AP report offers some encouraging results mixed in with other information that is mostly tragic. How well does the report balance the good news and bad news? Provide details and reasons for your assessment. Should the report have focused exclusively on one or the other kind of news? Why or why not? Explain your reasoning.

3. LET’S TALK. There may be no part of the US that is not subject to at least one type of natural disaster and weather event—wildfire, hurricane, tornado, volcano, earthquake, flooding, extreme heat or cold. How do you deal with the weather threats in your region? Are you calm and prepared? Stressed out? Prepared but fearful? Do you have any formal or informal plans with family members and/or neighbors? Community organizations? Do you feel confident that your local emergency resources are adequate and trustworthy? Why or why not? Talk about your responses to these questions with a few classmates. (Do you all live in the same region? If you’re studying online, you may not.) After hearing your classmates, are you motivated to change anything about your preparedness, individually or collectively?

4. AND NOW WRITE. By the time you are reading the AP report, the Bootleg Fire that broke out in July 2021 will likely be history, but other fires are almost certainly burning right now in the US and beyond. Scan through the news sources that are available to you (Google News is often a good place to start) and write a report that summarizes current wildfire activity. For each fire, identify its location, duration, approximate size, percentage of containment, evacuations, and any other information you consider relevant. 

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