Question:

Max is trapped on a heavily forested island that’s a narrow strip of land 10 miles long. A fire has started on the south end and is moving toward Max at the rate of 1 mile per hour fed by a wind from the south at 2 miles per hour. What can Max do to save himself from burning to death? Assume that Max can’t swim and he has no devices of any kind.

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C

A

P

T

A

I

N

I

N

T

E

R

V

I

E

W

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Solution: Max needs to set a controlled second fire and take advantage of the dead zone that results from the controlled burn. Max doesn’t even need a match or lighter since the current fire is moving slowly enough that he can get a light from it, bring it a few miles downwind of the fire, and then start the new fire. Eventually the first fire will reach the origin of the controlled fire and extinguish itself from lack of fuel. This practice is called “backburning.”

Extra credit: Max can jump in the water and drown. It satisfies the chal-lenge since Max does not burn to death.