Episode 825: Who Started The Wildfire : Planet Money After a wildfire, teams of investigators start combing the wreckage for clues. Finding the cause means, maybe, finding someone to pay. But where's the line between a natural disaster and a human one?
NPR logo Episode 825: Who Started The Wildfire

Episode 825: Who Started The Wildfire

Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images
Firefighter points their beam lights around a burnt area to check for damages.
Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images

Wildfires aren't like other natural disasters. You can't trace a hurricane to the first gust of wind, but you actually can trace your way back to a wildfire's first spark. And sometimes, someone has to pay.

In 2007, the Witch Creek Fire caused billions of dollars worth of damage in Southern California. While the fire was still burning, wildfire investigators showed up on the scene, and traced the flames back to where they began. The results spawned a ten year legal battle over who should pay for the damage.

Today on the show, we follow fire investigators into the charred hills hunting for clues, and we ask, where's the line between a natural disaster and a human one? Who should pay?

Music: "Spinning Piano" and "Pixels."

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