Two virtual community film events will examine how the last century of forest management has contributed to the growth of megafires and how different tools can be used to better prepare and protect communities surrounding fire-adapted ecosystems.

Blue Mountain Land Trust and a number of regional partners will host the events in May, “The West is Burning” and “Catching Fire: Prescribed Burning in Northern CA,” to bring community attention to National Wildfire Preparedness Month in May.

Each summer smoke permeates the region from surrounding wildfires. A number of entities have united to re-examine human relationships to fire. The films are an opportunity to learn about the importance of prescribed fire and how the historical use of fire ties to the work moving forward.

Free virtual screening show dates for the documentaries, both 54 minutes:

  • Thursday, May 6, 6:30-8:30 p.m. “The West is Burning,” followed by a virtual panel discussion of local and regional forest and fire professionals, including a community landowner perspective. Panelists include Walla Walla Emergency Manager Liz Jessee, private landowner Mark Klicker and The Nature Conservancy Forest Ecologist Kerry Kemp. Oregon State University Extension Forester John Punches will moderate the discussion.

It reveals the scale of wildfire issues facing the western U.S., examines the history of forest management and social conflict that led to the current conditions, which, coupled with longer fire seasons, are causing unprecedented destruction. Climate projections anticipate increasing wildfire impact across Oregon’s treasured forested landscapes on both the east and west sides of the state. In the film, unlikely partners come together to improve forest stewardship efforts and highlight the critical need for a unified response to climate change, land use, and forest restoration. This work emphasizes the importance of community-based solutions to these challenges. The feature-length documentary was produced by Landmark Stories at The University of Arizona by filmmakers Cody Sheehy and Galen McCaw, in association with Wallowa Resources. To register, visit bmlt.org/events.

  • Thursday, May 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m., “Catching Fire: Prescribed Burning in Northern CA,” followed by a virtual panel discussion with Bureau of Indian Affairs Jeff Casey; Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Department of Natural Resources Supervisory Forester Andrew Addessi; archeologist, Karuk Basketweaver and cultural practitioner Kathy McCovey; and Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Department of Natural Resources Education and Outreach Coordinator Wenix Red Elk. Panel conversation will be moderated by Oregon State University Extension Forester John Punches.

It tells the story of how a small, committed group of local, tribal, state and federal land managers is bringing back the use of prescribed fire as a tool to protect communities and ecosystems across northern California. This film examines the use of fire by the Karuk Tribe of California, and its contrast to how the last century of fire suppression is linked to the rise of megafires across the West. Drawing on interviews with fire scientists, tribal and federal land managers and fire savvy residents, it provides insight into how relationships to fire can be restored through strategic use of fire as a management tool. This film was produced by Will Harling and Jenny Staats in association with Orleans/Somes Bar Fire Safe Council and the Klamath-Salmon Media Collaborative.

“The Catching Fire film event will highlight the role of human-ignited fire in shaping ecosystems and sustaining indigenous cultures,” said Lindsay Chiono, CTUIR restoration ecologist. “CTUIR is pleased to be a partner in bringing the screening and panel discussion to the Walla Walla region.”

To register for this FREE event, visit bmlt.org/events.

The virtual film events are hosted in partnership with BMLT, CTUIR, My Blue Mountains Woodland Partnership, Oregon State University Extension, Northern Blues Cohesive Strategy Partnership, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, The Nature Conservancy, Wallowa Resources and Umatilla National Forest, part of the Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or 509-526-8313.

Annie joined the U-B news staff in 1979 and since 1990 has written Etcetera, a daily community column. She was promoted to a copy editing post in 2007. She edits copy, designs and lays out pages, including the weekly arts and entertainment guide Marquee,