Jan 7, 2022 - Podcasts

A Colorado fire scientist on her hometown burning

In Colorado, the cleanup continues from the the devastating Marshall Fire that started last week. The blaze that destroyed hundreds of homes is fully contained, but many residents are still a long way from recovery, after the most destructive fire in the state’s history.

  • Plus, Jonathan Swan on the state of the GOP one year after the Jan. 6 attacks.
  • And, we’ll be covering healthcare worker burnout, so we’re asking for your stories.

Guests: Dr. Natasha Stavros, fire scientist at the University of Colorado and Axios' Jonathan Swan.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Sabeena Singhani and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, January 7th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: Jonathan Swan on the state of the GOP one year after the Jan. 6 attacks. Plus: we’ll be covering healthcare worker burnout – we’re asking for your stories.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: a fire scientist on her hometown burning.

NIALA: I think after a natural disaster it’s easy to lose sight of what still goes on after national news and headlines go quiet. In Colorado, the cleanup continues from the the devastating Marshall Fire that started last week. And as of now - the blaze that destroyed hundreds of homes is fully contained, but many residents are still a long way away from recovery after the most destructive fire in the state’s history.

Joining us from Colorado is Dr. Natasha Stavros, a fire scientist at the University of Colorado who’s been studying mega fires for over a decade. Hi Natasha!

NATASHA: Hi, thanks for having me.

NIALA: Natasha, you're a fire scientist. As you were watching the plume of smoke from the Marshall fire, what was going through your head?

NATASHA: Well, I was sitting on my couch and I looked out my window in the direction of where it was located. And I did see a big plume and my immediate thought was like, this is really bad because we had had wind with gusts up to 105 to 120 miles per hour. And this is actually the first time that in my over 10 years experience I have ever felt comfortable saying that this is a climate fire.

NIALA: So when you say this is a climate fire, can you just give us a really quick sense of why you think that is?

NATASHA: Fire has three ingredients. It has ignition, it has weather and it has fuel. And because of the climate that we had over 2021, we grew fuel and then we dried it out. And then you added wind. So two of the key ingredients were ripe and all it took was a spark. And that spark is actually quite inevitable anywhere where humans are interacting with the landscape because there's dozens of ways for there to be a spark on the landscape. And so it's not really about the ignition. It's about all the conditions that set us up to have this fire in December.

NIALA: Natasha, I'm really glad that you personally are okay. And your house is okay. I know I'm sure, you know a lot of people that that's not the case. What is it like to be someone who's a fire ecologist and understand all of this and study this, but then also experience it personally, where you live?

NATASHA: It's really hard. There's been a lot of chatter about the movie “Don't look up.”

And that sentiment in “Don't look Up” where you're just screaming at the world like we have a problem. We need to change the way that we are using fire on the landscape. We need to change the way that we're building. We needed to change the way that we're interacting. Saying that message over and over and over again and not being heard is, is it's emotionally draining. But on top of that, on a much more personal level, my family actually evacuated in one of the first mega fires of the 21st century, 20 years ago. And still to this day, I am living with the fear of my house burning down at any given moment. So it never leaves you, it's like any trauma, you live with it day in and day out. That's one of the things that the members of this community are going to have to live with for a very long time, especially considering the fact that superior is actually considered a low to moderate fire risk area. So this was extremely unexpected and that shock to the system, you can't shake it, you know, it'll be with those people forever.

NIALA: Natasha Stavros is a fire ecologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Stay safe.

NATASHA: Thank you. Have a good one.

There’s a growing shortage of healthcare workers in the U.S. right now. The CDC a couple weeks ago updated its COVID isolation guidelines so that workers could get back to understaffed hospitals faster.

We’re going to be talking about this problem on the show, and we want to hear from you. If you’re a healthcare worker: Have you left or considered leaving your job? Are you experiencing burnout? What would help you deal with the stress?

Record a short voice memo of your thoughts and text them to me at (202) 918-4893. If you’d rather not share your name that’s fine, but we’d love to know where you’re located.

In 15 seconds, I’m back with Jonathan Swan to talk about this week in politics.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

It's Friday, which means we're rounding up the first week of the year in politics. And this week has been dominated by the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection. Yesterday, President Biden blamed former President Trump for the attack.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.

NIALA: Axios’ Jonathan Swan has been deep into reporting on how former President Trump and his allies have spent this week. And he's here now to catch us up. Jonathan, I think we should start with what didn't happen this week. Former president Trump had originally scheduled a press conference for yesterday at Mar-a-Lago. Why was that canceled?

JONATHAN SWAN: Some of his closest allies thought that this was a really bad idea that would ultimately hurt him politically. Senator Lindsey Graham told me that he played golf with former President Trump over the weekend and on the golf course, Trump asked him what he thought about a press conference on January 6th. And Lindsay Graham said to Trump that there would be quite a lot of peril in doing that. So, there were more people who weighed in, but Trump ultimately changed his mind and put out a statement saying that he was canceling it.

NIALA: Meanwhile, the January 6th select committee has requested that Fox News channel host, Sean Hannity cooperate with their investigation. What role does Hannity play in all of this?

JONATHAN: There's been a few text messages that have been released by committee investigators that involve Sean Hannity. And what it seems like from these texts is that Hannity was one of the people who thought Trump was making a grave mistake. He's a very close advisor, was in office to President Trump, someone that Trump called late at night that he spoke to very, very frequently. If they're trying to get inside Trump's mindset at that time and know what Trump was thinking, Sean Hannity's a pretty good person to talk to cause he was talking to Trump a lot during those days. So that's where I think they're getting at. I don't think anyone thinks that Sean Hannity's himself in any legal jeopardy.

NIALA: Jonathan, a year away from January 6th now, I wonder what your thoughts are about where things stand with Republicans in Congress, in Washington, a year on?

JONATHAN: Well, I remember last year on January 6th, there was this period of time where it really seemed like this was it for Trump when you talked to Republicans on the Hill. There was this moment where they seemed to be coming together a little bit. I mean, gosh, Amy Klobuchar, Democratic Senator, told me that she did a fist bump with Mike Pence after he certified Joe Biden's victory.

So that's kind of the mood on January 6th. It didn't take long though for Donald Trump to reestablish himself if he ever was not, as the unquestioned, most powerful leader of the Republican party. And now it's virtually assumed that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee in 2024. So it's sort of shocking actually given where people's heads were at a year ago, where things are at now.

NIALA: Axios political reporter, Jonathan Swan. Thanks Jonathan.

JONATHAN: Thank you.

Before we go today, a note of thanks to all of you who responded when we asked what kind of emergency prep you do for your car, in case you ever get stuck like drivers did on a snowy I-95 in Virginia this week. Michael in Iowa shared his prep, for other drivers in cold climates: keep a zip-lock bag of sand, a few 10hr candles, and a lighter in a large tin can with a lid. He says: if you get stranded, pour the sand in the bottom, stick in a candle, & light it. The small flame will heat both the can & the sand. It won’t feel like the tropics, but it’ll warm your car interior enough to keep you from freezing to death. Thanks Michael.

Alright that’s all for this week. Axios Today is brought to you by Axios and Pushkin Industries.

We’re produced by Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Julia Redpath is our Executive Producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is our Editor In Chief. And special thanks to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - and have the best weekend.

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