Burning to learn

New research on fire, its causes and its behavior is helping scientists lessen the risks that burning poses

By Stephen Ornes, 15:25 PM March 13, 2014

In central California’s Yosemite National Park, it doesn’t take much to set the forest on fire. A discarded cigarette. A match. Or, as is often the case, a bolt of lightning. On July 31, 2011, thunder boomed as a severe storm pelted the park. The lightning struck trees, igniting several fires. Firefighters with the National Park Service quickly extinguished three fires. But they let a fourth burn on.


They thought it might actually do more good than harm.


That fire began burning through a rugg...

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