Kirk Siegler

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.

Siegler grew up near Missoula, MT, and received a B.A. in journalism from the University of Colorado.  He’s an avid skier and traveler in his spare time.

Along the country roads that fan out from Ogallala, Neb., there are abandoned, weathered old farmhouses and collapsed barns, remnants of the hardscrabble settlers who first tapped the Ogallala aquifer and turned the dry, high plains into lush wheat and corn fields.

Like a lot of the Midwest, western Nebraska slowly emptied out over the years, which is why a lot of locals say the current housing shortage is nothing short of a paradox.

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Here's a telling statistic: Seven of the most destructive wildfires in California history have occurred just in the past 10 months.

In the West, wildfires are burning hotter and more intensely than ever because of climate change, and the situation is made worse by the explosion of development in fire-prone areas and past firefighting decisions. Here are three reasons the destructive fires you're seeing all over the news right now are unlikely to abate anytime soon.

1. It's nearly impossible to put out a modern megafire

Ten years after the housing collapse during the Great Recession, a new and different housing crisis has emerged.

Back then, people were losing their homes as home values crashed and homeowners went underwater. Today, home values have rebounded, but people who want to buy a new home are often priced out of the market. There are too few homes and too many potential buyers.

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On the last day of school in the rural town of Cairo, on the southernmost tip of Illinois, the fire truck ran its hoses so kids could cool off in the sweltering heat. The staff barbecued burgers and hot dogs.

It was a light-hearted anecdote to what had been another tough year.

After a precipitous decline since 2012, enrollment dropped by another 100 or so students. This year there were only 26 seniors in the graduating class.

As California joins seven other states in holding its primary Tuesday, one spotlight is on a handful of congressional seats in suburban Orange County, where Democrats think they can take back control of the House. That's in part due to the region's fast-changing demographics.

Rancher Craig Verasjka enthusiastically voted for Donald Trump and his support for the president's interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, had been unwavering. Finally, he recalled thinking after the election, when making land management decisions the federal government might give a friendlier ear to rural Americans who rely on public lands to make a living.

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