Living with wildfires, OSU series hopes for answers

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"We know fires are going to keep happening"

SISTERS, OREGON – JULY 11: In this handout provided by the Oregon Department of Forestry, a firefighting tanker drops retardant over the Grandview Fire on July 11, 2021 northeast of Sisters, Oregon. The Grandview Fire had spread to nearly 6,000 acres before firefighters, aided by calmer winds, were able slow it at 10 percent contained amid dozens of blazes burning in the western U.S. fueled by record temperatures and drought. (Photo by Oregon Department of Forestry via Getty Images)

CORVALLIS, Ore. (KOIN) — It may be cold outside right now, but researchers are looking ahead on what it means to live with wildfires during warmer months.

An Oregon State University remote lecture series, “Lookout: Envisioning Futures with Wildfire,” aims to ‘complicate and clarify’ people’s understanding of wildfire, said the university. The series is presented by the Spring Creek Project and the environmental arts and humanities initiative within OSU’s College of Liberal Arts.

The project works to combine environmental science with arts and humanities to better understand the relationship between people and the natural world.

“Of course, ecosystems need to burn, and fire is a natural element,” said Spring Creek Project manager Carly Lettero. “But we’re interested in people who are asking the question, ‘What does it mean to live with wildfire?’ It’s not an easy thing to imagine doing.”

The free 11-week series, starting Jan. 4, includes lectures by artists, firefighters, biologists and more.

Speakers include Margo Robbins, co-founder and executive director of the Cultural Fire Management Council, who will discuss “Climate Change and Native Knowledge” on Jan. 18.

On Feb. 1, the series will also feature Jaime Loew, who wrote “Breathing Fire,” which follows the lives of incarcerated women fighting fires in California.

The university’s hope is that the series draws people living on the front lines of wildfire country, those impacted by heavy smoke in the air and people who care about ecosystems impacted by fires.

“What I’m really hoping is that we, as audience members, are asking, ‘How can we take care of each other and how can we best take care of the land?’ because we know fires are going to keep happening,” Lettero said.

The Zoom series begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 4 with “Art on Fire” by Bryan David Griffith and Julie Comnick and continues with lectures at 6 p.m. every Tuesday through March 15. It is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

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