What Next

On the Front Lines of California’s Wildfires

The state is relying on incarcerated women to face down an existential threat.


Episode Notes

The fires raging across the American West are like the climate crisis itself: Too big and too extreme to understand all at once. So today, we’re zooming in on some of the people fighting those fires: crews of incarcerated women. In California, they risk their lives for abysmal pay, and officials are just starting to realize how essential they are to the state’s fire response.

Guest: Jaime Lowe, author of Breathing Fire

If you enjoy this show, please consider signing up for Slate Plus. Slate Plus members get benefits like zero ads on any Slate podcast, bonus episodes of shows like Slow Burn and Dear Prudence—and you’ll be supporting the work we do here on What Next. Sign up now at slate.com/whatnextplus to help support our work.

Podcast production by Mary Wilson, Davis Land, Danielle Hewitt, Elena Schwartz, and Carmel Delshad.


About the Show

The problem with the news right now? It’s everywhere. And each day, it can feel like we’re all just mindlessly scrolling. It’s why we created What Next. This short daily show is here to help you make sense of things. When the news feels overwhelming, we’re here to help you answer: What next? Look for new episodes every weekday morning.

All episodes


  • Mary Harris is the host and managing editor of What Next, Slate's new daily news podcast. She has reported throughout the public radio system, for NPR, Marketplace, and WNYC.