For many communities in the West, the water that flows out of kitchen faucets and bathroom showerheads starts high up in the mountains, as snowpack tucked under canopies of spruce and pine trees. This summer’s record-breaking wildfires have reduced some of those headwater forests to burnt trees and heaps of ash.
Major wildfires have burned through the Western U.S. in 2020, breaking records for their scale and damage. As firefighters tamp down their immediate effects, those who live nearby are coming to grips with the lingering danger of wildfires. Even long after the flames are gone, residents face a serious increase in the threat of flooding.