ELEMENTAL, redefining our relationship with wildfire, 80min., USA, Nature/Environment
Directed by Trip Jennings
As fire seasons grow longer, more destructive and more deadly, it is clear that our approach to reducing wildfire risk is failing. This film brings cutting edge science and indigenous knowledge into focus. It forces us, from city dwellers to seasoned fire professionals to rural citizens , to question what we believe and offers a science based way forward to live and thrive with fire.
My first exposure to wildland fire was when I was a sophomore in college working on a student film nearly 20 years ago. The Biscuit fire burned across half a million acres in Southern Oregon, and we covered the controversy, science and politics at play during and after the fire. The Bush administration proposed the largest timber sale in modern history, and a big fight ensued. A groups of scientist led by Daniel Donato published a paper in Science magazine and they were attacked by other professors at their school. Our team grappled with the complex debate around fire and worked with scientists, advocates and local citizens to capture the story.
More than a decade later, the Eagle Creek fire ignited the Columbia River Gorge, a scenic area just a half hour from my home. As the fire burned, legislation was proposed that would allow clearcut logging in the forests after the fire. The community was shocked and angry. People were searching for answers, and I noticed that people were sharing my nearly two-decade-old student film - I was taken aback. Was it possible that little to nothing else was available to communicate this message?
As the rains came and put the fire out, I took to the air with an expert scientist to assess the burn. I created a short film about the fire that has been views by hundreds of thousands of people and has influenced the reporting and response.
For the last four years I have dedicated myself to visiting burned landscapes and communities destroyed by fire. I am deeply committed to changing the national conversation around wildfire. I have visited with scientists, investigators and firefighters and they have told me again and again that we can have healthy forests and safe communities, and that we can prepare for and adapt to fire.