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At least 15 dead as severe weather sweeps across central US; on Memorial Day, IA labor leaders honor fallen workers; Medical center installs microgrid to safeguard clinic power supply; 'Second look' laws gain traction, but MS sticks to elderly parole; Will summer heat melt New Mexicans' cravings for ice cream?

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One congressman cites ways Biden could get more support from communities of color. A new Louisiana law reclassifies two abortion medications as controlled substances. And Ohio advocates work to boost youth voter turnout.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

Ahead of fire season, tips on how to protect home and family

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Wednesday, January 31, 2024   

California's wildfire death toll has ticked down in recent years, mostly because mega-fires have managed to avoid urban areas.

Firefighters have some tips for the millions of Golden State residents who live along the wildland-urban interface.

Capt. Scott Safechuck of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department said the first thing is to create defensible space around the home.

"If nothing is completely overgrown, and the dead component is removed and you maintain your landscaping well, it helps slow down or inhibit the fire," Safechuck explained.

Safechuck also recommended removing any tree limbs hanging lower than six feet off the ground. You can "harden" your home with fire-resistant roof tiles, and should remove any flammable items or wood piles nearby and close the eaves. In addition, people are being asked to sign up for their county's emergency alert system and be sure to heed any evacuation orders.

Fire agencies are updating their equipment ahead of fire season as well.

Thomas Tighe is president and CEO of the nonprofit Direct Relief, which helped the Santa Barbara County Fire Department refurbish an old Blackhawk helicopter and acquire several 4-by-4 off-road rescue vehicles.

"The circumstances are changing related to fire, including more extreme events that last longer," Tighe pointed out. "As we build into the wildland-urban interface, it increases the human health risk. So, it's important that the people fighting those fires are properly equipped for the new reality."

He added in the past two years, the Firehawk helicopter has been used in 37 wildfires, plus multiple hoist rescues and medical evacuations.

Disclosure: Direct Relief contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environment, and Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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Ice cream makers in the U.S. produce more than 1.38 billion gallons of ice cream annually, with consumption usually peaking in July. (auremar/Adobe Stock)

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