PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A new documentary produced in Oregon and across the Western United States asks people to re-examine their relationship with wildfire and what they can do to better protect their homes from igniting.
The film’s production began in 2017 when executive producer Ralph Bloemers and the team headed to the Columbia River Gorge to document the Eagle Creek Fire and its aftermath.
The opportunity to cover wildfires expanded after the team received funding from National Geographic to pursue a feature film – and in the years after Eagle Creek, the wildfires kept coming.
“The Paradise fire in 2018, which in a matter of 8 hours burned over 18,000 homes, to the 2020 fires in Oregon, which impacted communities across Oregon and even out in the coast,” Boemers described.
The team thought they’d end production in 2020, but as more catastrophic fires happened throughout the season, they knew there was more to do. 2021 also brought the Dixie Fire and Caldor Fire in California, the Marshall Fire in Colorado, and the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.
The documentary was extended another half-hour to include more disasters from these years.
Over the course of 5 years, Bloemers said the essence of the film changed from being a story about wildfires to a story about living with wildfire, managing wildfire, and hope for the future.
“I think that we had done our homework and spent enough time with the material to be able to put together a story, a documentary, a piece of a piece of journalism that compellingly conveyed what the science was telling us, and what we were learning from the community,” he said.
Without giving away too many details about the documentary, Bloemers said the film explores ways people can prevent their homes from igniting and burning, even in the most extreme conditions.
He said the film explains the limits of firefighters and why they can’t always save homes or be everywhere a fire is burning.
Much of the documentary is also devoted to research and includes interviews with top scientists in the country who study forest and timber land management. Native people from the Karuk and Yurok Tribes in Northern California also explain how their people have traditionally used controlled burns to prevent massive forest fires.
“I think part of the goal in making this film is to show people that are using fire for its benefits,” Bloemers said.
Since film production ended, he said more fires have burned across the West and Bloemers knows there are more stories to tell about how these more recent disasters have affected people. He and the team are already thinking about future projects and what comes next.