What are the benefits of prescribed burning? Why have wildfires gotten so severe lately? What can I do to protect my home and community?
Life With Fire podcast aims to answer these questions (and many others) while deepening our understanding of the critical role fire plays in America’s forests, lands and communities.
Hosted by writer and former wildland firefighter Amanda Monthei, Life with Fire will feature interviews with everyone from fire experts to historians to people on the ground. Through these interviews, Amanda hopes to explore how humans interact with fire, as well as ways we can better coexist with it in the future.
Off-Season Struggles: Understanding Wildland Firefighter Mental Health
Wildland firefighters are disproportionately affected by depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide and other mental health struggles. There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest are quite simple: wildland firefighting is a high-stress job that takes firefighters away from their families for months at a time and often doesn't come with appropriate pay or benefits given the sacrifices that these folks make every summer. With that lack of benefits comes a severe lack of mental health resources and care for laid-off firefighters, resulting in something of a mental health epidemic for a seasonal workforce that grows more essential—and more exhausted—by the year. This episode dives into what these struggles look like from the perspective of currently laid-off seasonal firefighters, who each spoke about their individual challenges with mental health and wellness in their off seasons.
Firefighters included in this episode: Ben McLane (hotshot), Coleman Wilson (handcrew member), Gabby Casper (rappeller), Eddie Klemencic (hotshot), Kat Sullivan (hotshot) and Livi Hughes (British Columbia Fire Service crewmember).
From Incarcerated Firefighter to Full-Time Hotshot with Mando Perez
Mando Perez spent around six years fighting fire while incarcerated as a young man. Upon his release in 2010, he began the arduous transition into a position with a federal firefighting agency, and now works as a senior firefighter for the El Dorado Hotshots. In this episode, he shares his experiences of working on an inmate fire crew and details how he transitioned to a full-time fire career after his release. He also talks about why he continues to pursue fire as a career, what he loves about the job, and offers some suggestions for people who may be on a path similar to his.
Follow the link below to watch the Vice News short documentary on the El Dorado Hotshots (which I mentioned in this episode): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6T9R-cjXc0&t=312s
To learn more about California Assembly Bill 2147—which allows formerly incarcerated firefighters to have their records expunged in order to gain employment more easily after their release—check out this piece in Politico from September: https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2020/09/11/california-clears-way-for-inmate-firefighters-to-enter-profession-upon-release-9424131.
Finally, here are a few resources for anyone interested in getting a job as a wildland firefighter, regardless of their background:
The Wildland Fire Apprenticeship Program: https://www.nafri.gov/wfap/
The Rio Hondo Fire Academy (which Mando attended and mentions in this episode): https://www.riohondofire.com/wildland-fire-academy
The California Conservation Corps—this is a particularly good choice for college-aged people who have an interest in fire, trail work or other federal natural resource jobs: https://ccc.ca.gov/
Youth Conservation Corps—this program is for high schoolers who have an interest in natural resources work in general: https://www.fs.usda.gov/working-with-us/opportunities-for-young-people/youth-conservation-corps-opportunities
Restoring the Land, Restoring the People: Cultural Burning with Margo Robbins
Building Fire-Resilient Communities with Annie Schmidt
In this episode, we talk to Annie Schmidt, who works for the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network. Through her position at the Fire Adapted network, Annie has committed herself to helping communities build their fire-resiliency and, quite literally, learn to better live with fire. Annie offers some great perspective on how and why fire prevention work should be prioritized just as much as fire suppression, while also providing a few suggestions for other people who want to improve fire resiliency in their communities. One of the most interesting parts of Annie’s work is her commitment to bringing different voices to the table and empowering people with a variety of backgrounds to take greater authority over their land.
You can listen, subscribe or review Living With Fire on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.
Fire Ecology 101, with Dr. Susan Prichard
In this episode, I enlisted the help of Dr. Susan Prichard—who has a PhD in fire ecology—to share a few of the foundational ideas of fire science and how fire is fundamental to the landscapes in the Western US, specifically. She told me a bit about her ongoing research and projects, one of which models how fires would have burned and affected the landscape through the last century if they hadn’t been suppressed. Susan has also done extensive research on (and shared some insights on) how climate change influences fire and whether or not the high-severity fires we're seeing more of lately have any historical precedent in the US.
Why The "Labor Day Firestorm," Was So Historic, with Fire Meteorologist Nick Nauslar
On this episode, guest Nick Nauslar—a fire meteorologist at the National Interagency Fire Center—explains what contributed to the so-called "Labor Day Firestorm," that devastated the Northwest and Northern California on the week of September 6. Nick discussed all the factors that made this conflagration so historic, and also discussed how climate change—which took a lot of the blame in national media—played only a small part in what became one of the worst weeks of fire in US history.
Customer ReviewsSee All
1000/10 would recommend!
Living with Fire is one of the new “up and coming” fire podcasts that dives into the scientific, ecological, and historical “socio-pyro” questions surrounding wildland fire. Amanda brings her A GAME with her savvy journalistic mind and field experience as a former hotshot to deliver informative episodes and subject matter experts on the show. 1000/10 would recommend listening and reaching out to her, she’s awesome!
5 star podcast
Learning about the facts of fire, and that better management of our land will decrease the severity of fire is something everyone needs to understand. Amanda is an awesome host who brings her experience as a wildland firefighter to enlighten us.