By just about every measure, wildfires are getting bigger, hotter, and more devastating than we’ve ever seen before. But what all that fire means -- and what to do about it -- depends on who you ask.
Our view of fire is complicated. There’s fire as catastrophe, as something to be controlled and wiped off the landscape, feared. And there’s fire as something natural and essential, beautiful.
So, how do we reconcile those two views of fire? How did we get ourselves into this mess? And what can we do about it?
Listen now on Fireline, a six part series about what wildfire means for the West, our planet and our way of life.
From our friends at Wyoming Public Media, we present HumaNature, a show about where humans and habitat meet.
Today's episode, "Sanctuary," takes you back to 2012, 30 wolves and wolf-dogs were living at W.O.L.F. Sanctuary in northern Colorado. But one sunny June morning, a massive wildfire closed in on their mountain home.
Episode 6, Part 2: The Fire Triangle
Tens of millions of people across the West are facing the reality of life in a flammable landscape. When we hear about communities getting wiped out by wildfires, what’s actually going on? Why is it happening? And, what can we do about it?
Jack Cohen is a retired U.S. Forest Service research physical scientist who focusing on the combustion and heat transfer of wildland fire
Sheryl Gunn is a silviculturist with the Lolo National Forest
Alex Metcalf is a social scientist focused on the broad field of human dimensions on natural resources and a professor at the University of Montana.
Libby Metcalf is a social scientist specializing in the way humans interact with their natural environment and a professor at the University of Montana.
Episode 6, Part 1: Moral Hazard
The Wildland Urban Interface, or WUI, is where forest and homes meet. It’s the fastest growing land use type in the nation, and also where one in three homes across the country are situated. What’s it mean to live in the WUI, where the stakes of wildfire are higher than anywhere else? And why is this area so vulnerable to fire?
Jen Henseik is the Missoula district ranger for the Lolo National Forest
Rod Moraga is a firefighter and the CEO of Anchor Point, a wildland fire solutions group based in Boulder, Colorado
Kimi Barrett leads Headwaters Economics’ research in wildfire and other natural hazards and is the Program Coordinator for the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire program
Episode 5: Burnout
There are more than 30,000 people who fight wildfires in the U.S, and about 400 firefighters have died on the job over the last two decades. As fire seasons get longer and longer and fires become more devastating, the physical and mental toll on firefighters themselves is also growing.
Brent Ruby is a professor at the University of Montana and the director of the Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism
Dan Cottrell is the training foreman at the Missoula Smokejumper Base.
Nelda St. Claire is a former National Critical Incident Stress Program Manager for the Bureau of Land Management
Episode 4: The Gift of Fire
For millennia, wildfire was part of life in North America. Indigenous people used it for tradition and ceremony, to improve the health of ecosystems, and to assist with hunting and gathering. But the arrival of white settlers marked the beginning of an era in which that knowledge around fire and its role on the landscape was suppressed. Now, indigenous groups across the country are working to revive tribal relationships with fire. Today, one story of bringing fire back to the land on the Flathead Reservation in Northwest Montana.
- Andy Bidwell is a fuels specialist for the U.S. Forest Service
- Tony Incashola Jr. is the head of forestry for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
- Tony Incashola Sr. is a Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes elder and the director of the Selis-Qispe Culture Committee
- Germaine White is an educator and former cultural resource manager for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
Episode 3: Ring of Fire
The connection between humans and fire goes back millions of years. What started with campfires and cooking grew into a burning addiction that catalyzed the Industrial Revolution and now shapes nearly every aspect of our society. Now, our ongoing reliance on fire in its many forms is changing the climate with explosive consequences for wildfires — and much more.
Richard Wrangham is emeritus professor at Harvard University and the author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human Jennifer Balch is a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the director of the Earth Lab at the University. Cathy Whitlock is a regents professor at Montana State University, and the director of the MSU Paleoecology Lab.
Fireline manages to be interesting, thorough, and touching all at once. Fire is a deeply nuanced world that impacts people from all walks of life, and the creators of this podcast really sink their teeth into that complexity. Plus, as a bonus, not only is the content of the podcast fascinating, but it was really well-produced. It reminded me of NPR in a way that really worked.
It does a great job describing our complicated history and relationship with wildfire.
Awesome Historical Context
Thank you for the historical context on wildfire management in the west. Very interesting and informative.