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On a simmering afternoon in late July, against a hazy background of sun and sky, the Colville Indian Reservation was burning. Again. 

The Summit Trail Fire, sparked by lightning, was scorching the upper northeast reaches of the reservation, spreading over 4,000 acres in a matter of days. As hundreds of firefighters worked to keep it contained, flames raced through fallen leaves and twigs, dead logs, and Douglas firs. 

It wasn’t the first fire of the summer for Colville. The 1.4 million-acre reservation, which hugs the banks of the Columbia River in northeastern Washington, was also under siege by the Chuweah Creek fire, which started around the same time. Previous fire seasons had been even more devastating. In 2020, over 200,000 acres had burned. And five years earlier, two blazes ripped through 270,000 acres, roughly 20 percent of the reservation, displacing thousands and costing approximately $36 million in damages.

In some ways, the Summit Trail Fire was nothing unexpected. The past few years have seen record-breaking fire seasons in the American West, with blazes scorching more than 10 million acres in 2020. Clim... Read more

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