Natural disasters are increasing across the nation. In the West, these disasters often come in the form of wildfire, and perhaps no state understands the true cost of wildfire like California. The Golden State has always had forest fires, but they're progressively becoming harder to control and more deadly. At the same time, the state's population has surpassed 40 million, pushing people further into wild spaces that have been adapted to fire. California Burning takes a critical look at how the state's fire-prone forests have been managed and examines how we can all be better stewards of the land and avoid catastrophic wildfires in the future. California Burning is a special radio series and podcast from North State Public Radio. Produced by Matt Fidler, Sarah Bohannon and Gregg McVicar.
California Burning: Episode 1—Our History With Fire
Smokey Bear is arguably the most effective advertising campaign in American history—but Smokey’s message created a fear in many of us that’s led to a misunderstanding of fire.
California Burning: Episode 2—Native Intelligence
Native Californians used fire to maintain the forests that surrounded them for more than 14,000 years. This prevented future wildfires and supported many plants and animals that need fire to thrive. On the second episode of California Burning, Matt shadows a pyrogeographer and learns how the Yurok Tribe on the Klamath River and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Santa Cruz are bringing fire back to the land.
California Burning: Episode 3—One Foot In The Black
Fire behavior is complicated, but can often be predicted. On the third episode of California Burning, we dive into the science of fire by visiting a wildland fire lab and a sustainable timber operation. We also hear from firefighters, forest rangers, and the “Helltown Hotshots” who risked it all to save their town during the Camp Fire.
California Burning: Episode 4—The Wildland-Urban Interface
Wildfires are no longer isolated to our forests in California. They now also threaten our cities. On the fourth episode of California Burning, we focus on where urban and wild spaces meet and hear from people who have experienced some of the most tragic fires in California’s history.
California Burning: Episode 5—Our Future With Fire
How can we address all the different factors associated with the wildfires plaguing California? On the fifth and final episode of California Burning, we seek solutions. We learn about alternative building materials that can withstand fire, and we go to a fire-resistant house that was the only in its neighborhood to survive the 2018 Carr Fire.
"California Burning" Coming Sept 30
Natural disasters are increasing across the nation. In the West, these disasters often come in the form of wildfire, and perhaps no state understands the true cost of wildfire as California. While the Golden State has always had forest fires, these conflagrations are progressively becoming harder to control and more deadly. At the same time, California’s population has surpassed 40 million, pushing people further into wild spaces that have been adapted to fire. California Burning takes a deep and critical look at how the state’s fire-prone forests have been managed, and how we can all learn from the past to be better stewards of the land and avoid catastrophic wildfires in the future.
The Podcast to Understand Wildland Fire, Humans, and the Environment
This is a great podcast. Well researched, balanced, insightful, and most important, the topic is the focus, not the podcaster.
Don’t worry about the California title, in case you’re thinking this story’s effect stops at the state boundary. California is merely the story host, used to demonstrate all that’s discussed.
1 - 5 stars
2 - 3 stars
3 - 3.5 stars
4 - 4.5 stars
5 - 4.5 stars
There’s science, history, story telling, lessons learned, inquisitiveness, and strategy for those who want to understand and make change. The first episode’s history lesson was superbly prepared and discussed, with two phenomenal speakers on the subject.
Episodes 2 and 3 were weaker points for me. It is misleading, if not factually incorrect, to imply that tribal nations are leading and/or leaders in the reintroduction of fire to the landscape. There is zero question that historic tribal entities harnessed fire to procure from and manage landscapes, but these nations are neither leading scientific work nor topping the charts with acres treated (quantity or complexity). I think one has to take caution with the purely/primarily mythic story of fire, especially if the entire story isn’t presented, including cultural change and management/hierarchical tribal system, arson, and differing laws affecting fire use, prosecution, funding strategy, and modern fire history patterns. This is one of two places the podcast fell short and failed to present holistic information to inform listeners.
The other area of concern comes in episode 3, where the podcaster tells the story of the self-titled “Helltown Hotshots.” Here’s another way to describe what we’re told is the heroic story of locals saving the town: unqualified do gooders get incredibly lucky, with geography and weather as much to credit, and fortunately don’t indirectly kill first responders called in to save them from their own arrogant bravado. Now you might say “how dare you!” But I say that once evacuated, stay out. Do not enter evacuation zones or exclusionary fire zones you were never in. These locals broke every tenet of wildland firefighting, and the “firefighter” among them wasn’t willing to use his full name. Now why is that? The podcaster didn’t do enough to highlight the incredible risk, if not stupidity, of these rogue warriors, at the potential expense of the lives of others. Brave and valiant? Maybe. Stupid and lucky? Yes.
These two issues, however, weren’t enough to drop my overall rating. This totality of this podcast is what others attempting to tell the fire story should aim for. Anyone listening can make well informed decisions about understanding, respecting, and living with wildland fire.
What a mess!
Just in CA last week! Experienced the loss of electricity, no gas, high winds, endless traffic jams! Glad to get back to beautiful Southwest Florida!
It’s clear that a lot of time and hard work went into making this podcast. Well done!