Some 14,000 firefighters, including inmate volunteers, are battling 18 major blazes burning thousands of square miles throughout California with aircraft, assorted vehicles and picks and shovels.

They take aim at the biggest wildfires in two ways and in much of the same way the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has for decades. They’ll go at it directly with water and retardant where they can.

And when they can’t take that direct approach, firefighters retreat to a ridge, wide road or stream where they use bulldozers to cut a “fire line.” There they’ll wait for the blaze to come to them while lighting “backfires” to clear vegetation between the fire line and the approaching blaze.

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