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Stoking the fires of change

SMU News

Originally Posted: July 12, 2021

An unusually hot, dry spell bakes the landscape. Ready to say goodbye to summer, friends gather for Labor Day barbecues in neighborhoods surrounded by forest. Winds whip up and embers fly. In the blink of an eye, 1,500 structures are set aflame.

That hypothetical scenario cooked up by environmental archaeologist Chris Roos and a friend about a fictional New Hampshire hamlet now plays out too often in places where wildfires were once unknown. “Climate change makes it real for a lot of people,” says Roos, an SMU anthropology professor who has studied wildfires in the Southwest for more than a decade.

A blaze was too close for comfort in an iconic photo showing a barefoot man clad in a T-shirt and boxers, fleeing for his life in Thousand Oaks, California. Time magazine named it one of the top 10 photos of 2018. That terror-filled moment was caught by SMU alum Stuart Palley ’11, a professional photographer whose stunning images accompany this story. READ MORE

By Katherine Nickles

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