NONFICTION PAIRED TEXT Could a Monster Wildfire Happen Today? Yes—in fact, huge wildfires happen all the time. Thousands of wildfires burn in the western U.S. each year. On August 17, 2013, a hunter made a campfire. He just wanted to heat up some soup. But he accidentally started the third-largest wildfire in California’s history. The wind carried sparks from the hunter’s campfire into the woods. Soon, a wildfire was burning out of control. It spread with terrifying speed. For a while, it doubled in size every day. The blaze became known as the Rim Fire. It raged for two months. Thousands of firefighters worked to stop it. When they finally did, 400 square miles of forest had burned. That’s an area larger than Dallas, Texas. average fire is three times larger than it was in the 1980s,” says Jason Ramos, a wilderness firefighter. Fighting the Flames The Rim Fire started in a remote area. Fighting such a fire can be a big challenge. Firefighters often use planes to reach the fire. They dump huge loads of water from these planes. Sometimes that is not enough to stop a wildfire, so firefighters like Ramos parachute down. After they parachute to the ground, these firefighters use shovels and axes to remove plants. They create a line of bare soil near the edge of the fire. When the fire reaches this line, there is nothing to burn. The fire stops spreading. Today, wildfires are rarely deadly. Early warnings help people get to safety before it’s too late. Even though the Rim Fire destroyed 11 homes and caused millions of dollars in damage, no one was killed. • PATRICK ORTON/AURORA PHOTOS Wildfires Getting Worse Wildfires have always been common in the western U.S. In recent years, they have been getting bigger and harder to control. That’s partly because the weather has been hotter and drier than in the past. Forest plants have dried out. That makes the plants burn very easily. “The 10 Scholastic Action | September 7, 2015 In the past, people often died in wildfires.