‘Fire is medicine’: the tribes burning California forests to save them

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For millennia, native people have used flames to protect the land. The US government outlawed the process for a century before recognizing its value

When Rick O’Rourke walks with fire, the drip torch is an extension of his body. The mix of diesel and gasoline arcs up and out from the little wick at the end of the red metal can, landing on the ground as he takes bite after bite out of the dry vegetation in the shadow of the firs and oaks.

“Some people are like gunslingers and some people are like artists who paint with fire,” he says. “I’m a little bit of both.”

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