wildfire

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Ranchers on the Great Plains are recovering from wildfires that scorched hundreds of thousands of acres of cattle country last month.

In the vast plains of western Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, ranchers have devised a system to make sure the cattle that survived the blaze still have enough to eat. Farmers and ranchers from around the country routinely donate bales of hay and volunteer to distribute it to ranchers in need.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Updated Wednesday, April 18 at 10:05 a.m.

Residents of Seiling and Oakwood were evacuated in northwest Oklahoma yesterday, as large fires grew due to high winds, low humidity, and drought conditions.

But officials with Oklahoma Forestry Services say new fire starts were kept to a minimum yesterday, despite the historic fire weather conditions.

Blizzards are affecting much of the Great Lakes region this weekend, and the National Weather Service says it's "shaping up to be a historic storm." The snow is just one part of a massive storm system affecting areas from the Gulf Coast to northern Wisconsin and Michigan.

As dense smoke from regional wildfires spread through communities across western Montana last summer, public health agencies faced an indoor problem, too: Residents suddenly needed filters to clean the air inside homes and public spaces, but there was no obvious funding source to pay for it.

Ellen Leahy, the health officer in charge of the Missoula City-County Health Department, says in the past, when wildfire smoke polluted the air outside, nobody really talked about air filters.

This was supposed to be the Ekblad family's first Christmas in their new home, a four-bedroom near a park in Ventura, Calif., that they stretched their budget to buy. Allie Ekblad, 32, says she was ready for the holiday: For once, she had finished Christmas shopping early for her husband, Matt, 2-year-old Jace and 8-month-old Ava.

"The one year I'm ahead of everything," she says, sighing. "I had everyone done, including the kids, stockings, the extended family. All done."

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET

Firefighters battling the massive Thomas Fire northwest of Los Angeles were working against another round of high winds to prevent its spread to homes in Santa Barbara and Montecito.

The blaze — which has gone on for two weeks and engulfed some 269,000 acres — has become the third largest wildfire in the state's modern history.

Wildfires in December are the new norm for California.

In the West, they are burning hotter and more intensely than ever due to climate change, and the situation is made worse by the explosion of development in fire prone areas and past firefighting decisions. Here are three reasons the fires are massive and likely won't abate anytime soon.

1. It's nearly impossible to put out a modern mega-fire

This has been tough year for America's west coast vineyards. Wildfires in October in Northern California and this month in Southern California have left acres of wine country scorched and black. While California's 2017 grapes have been safely harvested already, winemakers around the world are wary about a threat that is growing along with the frequency of wildfires: smoke taint.

Updated at 10:55 p.m. ET

The fire that has been raging for 10 days in southern California – one of the largest and most destructive in the state's history — is being gradually contained, firefighters say, but there's still a long way to go.

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