What are the benefits of prescribed burning? Why have wildfires gotten so severe lately? How can I help 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 features interviews with everyone from scientists to fire management experts to Indigenous practitioners and folks doing the work on the ground. Through these interviews, Amanda hopes to explore our relationship with fire, as well as ways we can better coexist with it in the future.
The Wildfire Commission Report with Kelly Martin
The Wildfire Mitigation and Management Commission, established in 2022 at the behest of Congress following the 2021 Infrastructure Act, recently released a substantial report highlighting recommendations that will shape the future of wildfire policy and action in the US. Fifty commission members were charged with creating the recommendations, one of which was Kelly Martin—who is a founding member of the Grassroots Wildland Firefighter organization and a longtime wildland firefighter. We had the chance to chat with Kelly about the commission, and she was able to provide us a glimpse into the process and efforts behind their whopping 340-page report. We spoke explicitly about how the recommendations relate to wildland firefighters, as well as what Kelly was able to bring to the commission with her extensive background working in wildland fire operations.
We're hoping to release a few more episodes about the commission report, which will focus on other recommendations and themes—including community resilience/adaptation, Indigenous burning and scaling up projects that reduce wildfire risk. Stay tuned!
Humble Fire and Traditional Ecological Practices with Cultural Fire Scholar, Dr. Melinda Adams
You've probably heard of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), but how about Traditional Ecological *Practices*?
In this episode, we spoke with Dr. Melinda Adams of the N’dee San Carlos Apache Tribe about translating Indigenous knowledge into Indigenous-led action—which means giving Indigenous practitioners the "space, opportunity and action" to see their knowledge systems play out on the landscape. We spoke about a whole lot more than that, though—we heard about Dr. Adams' PhD work at UC-Davis, about her new assistant professor position at the University of Kansas and about bringing more humility into the use of fire. We also spoke at length about her recent paper titled "Solastalgia to Soliphilia: Cultural Fire, Climate Change, and Indigenous Healing," which she co-authored with Chairman Ron Goode of the North Fork Mono Tribe (who coined the term "Traditional Ecological Practices") and lead author Erica Tom.
This is an important episode for those interested in Indigenous knowledge, understanding and practice of land stewardship—including the use of fire—but is absolutely essential for anyone who works in an agency or organization that emphasizes the importance of TEK, and especially for those who recognize a need for a different and more humble approach to fire and active stewardship.
Beyond that, if you're looking for an antidote to your climate grief, look no further than this conversation with Melinda. Her energy for the work is incredible, and is bolstered by countless other Indigenous practitioners and allies who envision a more sustainable, Indigenous-led, community-based future of land stewardship and fire use.
Community-Informed Wildfire Communications, With Isabeau Ottolini
Isabeau Ottolini is one of the foremost experts on imbuing risk communications with values that are informed by communities themselves. As a PhD candidate on community-based communications at the Open University of Catalonia in Spain, Isabeau spends a significant amount of time thinking about how we can best reach those most at risk of wildfire's impacts, while also allowing those folks to inform how we approach them on this subject.
The ways we talk about wildfire are often highly localized—and dependent on a number of factors like community values, history and available resources. However, the things that make for successful risk communication are largely universal, with mutual respect being chief among the elements of successful communication. This is a primary point of Isabeau's: that when we are talking to community members about wildfire or other climate risks, embracing a two-way communication (rather than top-down, as she calls it) approach is essential. In other words, ensuring that you're actually listening to the community you're communicating with.
Isabeau is also a current member of PyroLife, which is a PhD training program that supports students across the globe to pursue cross-disciplinary, wildfire-focused research projects. She recently published a paper called "A toolkit for fostering co-creation and participative community engagement with vulnerable communities at risk," where she expands on many of the topics we cover in this episode—we'd highly recommend giving it a read.
Expanding Prescribed Fire Capacity in Washington State, with Lucas King
We're big fans of the Mt. Adams Resource Stewards here at Life with Fire. You may recall our episode with the organization's Executive Director back in 2022 (episode 28), but we're back today with an episode with MARS' Stewardship Crew Lead, Lucas King, who shares his thoughts on expanding capacity for more burning and fuels reduction from the ground up in Washington State.
Life after Wildland Firefighting with Luke Mayfield
What can life after wildland firefighting look like? With the issues facing wildland firefighters these days (including but not limited to: abysmal pay, nonexistent benefits and perpetually being let down by elected officials who suggest they might actually do something about it etc) many in this essential but overworked workforce are likely considering that question themselves.
After asking himself that question for years, today's guest Luke Mayfield finally got his answer in 2019, when he left his job as a hotshot captain to see what life outside of operational fire was all about. He now works as the fire program director at Mystery Ranch Backpacks, and is still very much involved the fire community—both through his policy work at Grassroots Wildland Firefighters and as an emergency fill-in for hotshot crews for the last four summers. He's also spent some time this spring talking to hotshot crews about mental health and general wellness during the fire season, which are topics that he's well-versed in after 18 years in fire.
Forest Resilience Policy at the State Level with Hilary Franz
We'll be honest—we've been hoping to talk to Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz since the podcast's inception. Franz is responsible for the management of over six millions acres of public lands and the state's wildland firefighting workforce, and we were pretty excited to finally have the opportunity to have a conversation with her a few weeks ago. We covered topics ranging from the forest resilience measures she's taken while in office, to the All Hands All Lands approach to fuels reduction, to her visions for a more fire-adapted Washington. Life with Fire is based in Bellingham, WA—an admittedly wet place to host a wildfire podcast—so we even spoke a bit about the changing conditions in the west Cascades and how her office is hoping to bring more wildfire awareness to the westside.
This will be interesting to people inside and outside fire services.
Great Guests, Great Host, Great Questionsn
Amanda knows her stuff and what she doesn’t know she finds the right experts and asks great questions. Short enough to be able to listen any time but packed with enough depth to make every episode worth its weight in gold.
Amanda, you bring to light a lot of issues that are out there when it comes to fire and protecting yourself and your home. You have some great guests that put it into such a perspective that people can understand it. Not a bunch of language that people don’t understand or comprehend. Thank you so much.
Another great podcast about wildfire communication. Everyone should be able to articulate about wildfire communication and what mitigation efforts should be done to protect people’s homes.