Background Info

Travel with Wild Chronicles to Lancaster, California, to meet a special breed of firefighter that takes to the skies. These fire-bombing pilots are tasked with keeping raging wildfires in check from the air. Steep terrain and blinding smoke make this job a life-threatening challenge, but when the alarm sounds, these pilots are ready to fly into action.



The air tankers and their crews are alerted to a fire in the San Gabriel Mountains. What caused the fire?

Show Answer

A hiker burned toilet paper, and the fire got out of control.


Fighting wildfires from the air is a dangerous job. How many pilots and other air tanker personnel have been killed in the line of duty?

Show Answer

More than 100,000 firefighters have died in the line of duty.


What is a firewall?

Show Answer

A firewall is an area of land that has been intentionally burned by firefighters. This burned area cuts fuel and prevents the spread of a wildfire past that point.


Does the firebreak in the San Gabriel fire work?

Show Answer

No. Winds carry burning embers past the firebreak.


How is the wildfire eventually put out?

Show Answer

A strong front of cool, moist air forces the fire to die out naturally.

For Further Exploration


Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry



person who works to control and put out fires.



topographic features of an area.



uncontrolled fire that happens in a rural or sparsely populated area.


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Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

Page Producer

Jason Wasser

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