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Times wins Pulitzer for fire series [UPDATED]

April 20, 2009 | 12:34 pm


Los Angeles Times reporters Bettina Boxall and Julie Cart have won a Pulitzer Prize for their series of stories on how brush fires are fought.

The series found that a century after the government declared war on wildfire, fire is gaining the upper hand. Wildland blazes are growing bigger, fiercer and harder to put out. Firefighting costs are rising  too, and much of the money is going to private contractors. The story also looked at so-called CNN drops:

Fire commanders are often pressured to order firefighting planes and helicopters into action even when they won't do any good. The reason: Aerial drops of water and retardant make good television.

Boxall and Cart credited Times Deputy Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin with helping shape the series.

"Hooray for the L.A. Times. It was great that we were given the amount of time to report something that is so important to our readers," Cart said.

Times Editor Russ Stanton said the paper is committed to continuing this type of long-project journalism.

[Updated at 1 p.m.] Stanton noted that fewer papers are doing in-depth reporting but that the L.A. Times "will always be one" that does such stories.

Here's the full project.

Additionally, Times reporter Paul Pringle was a finalist for his meticulously researched stories that, in the face of threats, exposed financial abuses by the head of California’s largest union, leading to investigations, the union leader’s departure from office and repayment of misappropriated funds. Times photographer Carolyn Cole was a finalist  for "on-the-spot coverage of political violence in Kenya, capturing the terror as rebellion and reprisals jolted the nation."

The New York Times won five Pulitzers. Here is the full list of winners:

Public Service -- Las Vegas Sun

Breaking News Reporting -- the New York Times Staff

Investigative Reporting -- David Barstow of the New York Times

Explanatory Reporting -- Bettina Boxall and Julie Cart of the Los Angeles Times

Local Reporting -- Detroit Free Press staff
Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.

National Reporting -- St. Petersburg Times staff

International Reporting -- the New York Times staff

Feature Writing -- Lane DeGregory of the St. Petersburg Times

Commentary -- Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post

Criticism -- Holland Cotter of the New York Times

Editorial Writing -- Mark Mahoney of the Post-Star, Glens Falls, N.Y.

Editorial Cartooning -- Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune

Breaking News Photography -- Patrick Farrell of the Miami Herald

Feature Photography -- Damon Winter of the New York Times


Fiction -- "Olive Kitteridge," by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)

Drama -- "Ruined," by Lynn Nottage

History -- "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family," by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton & Co.)

Biography -- "American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House," by Jon Meacham (Random House)

Poetry -- "The Shadow of Sirius," by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press)

General Nonfiction -- "Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II," by Douglas A. Blackmon (Doubleday)

Music -- "Double Sextet," by Steve Reich, premiered March 26, 2008, in Richmond, Va. (Boosey & Hawkes)

--Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Julie Cart, left, Bettina Boxall and Marc Duvoisin celebrate their win in the newsroom.  Credit: Colin Crawford / Los Angeles Times