Wildfire Episode Six: The Language of Wildfire


When this final episode of Wildfire was recorded, in May of 2019, wildfire Season had already kicked in. Or, maybe it never stopped. We’re breaking records all around the world: more loss of life due to forest fires; many more homes lost to fire; longer fire seasons; hotter global temperatures; much more carbon in the atmosphere. In short, we’re heading into uncharted territory.

Our goal with this podcast series has been to equip you with the tools you need to understand wildfire, so that you can be a more informed citizen of the world and build a stronger relationship with our wild spaces. We covered the science, the fire and forest management methods, the history, and we explored what we can do in the future to and create a more symbiotic relationship between our society and the forests in which we live and on which we rely. But now that we’re wrapping up the show, you’re about to dive back into the media bath of forests burning and threatening communities while engulfing entire regions of the world in smoke.

In this final episode of Wildfire, now that we’re done with the story of the Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, we’re going to arm you with the tools you need to interpret the information you see in the news, be more prepared personally, and, if you like, know where you can go to learn more.

Key takeaways

  • 0:05 – In May of 2019, Wildfire Season had already kicked in, or maybe it never stopped.
  • 2:24 – This is clearly a worldwide issue…
  • 2:54 – In the Pacific Northwest, a record-setting fire season is already kicking in.
  • 6:45 – A conversation with Ralph Bloemers, Co-Founder and Senior Staff Attorney at the Crag Law Center in Portland, around the language used to describe wildfire.
  • 10:15 – How do we know if the wood products we’re buying come from companies with good forest management policies?
  • 12:04 – We are, in fact, breaking many important records. Records that we do not want to be breaking…
  • 13:00 – What can we, as individuals, do?
  • 13:50 – What does it mean to “harden our homes?”
  • 16:58 – Resources you can use to learn more about wildfire and what’s happening in our forests.


More about the Wildfire podcast

When a wildfire arrives at our doorstep, it’s a tragedy. This is especially true when these fires are human caused. But fire has always been an immense and immovable part of the natural order, particularly in the forests of the western United States.

Forest fires and the destruction they cause are not black and white phenomenon, and they cannot be understood without looking closely at the issues that swirl and mutate around the subject of wildfire as much as the fires themselves.

In Wildfire, hosts Graham Zimmerman and Jim Aikman explore the natural forest habitats in which wildfires burn, and how humans have historically interacted with forest fires and fire-susceptible terrain. Graham and Jim lead us into wild places impacted by forest fire; into history books; into conversations with scientists, naturalists, firefighters and politicians; and into the story of the destructive 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, a human-caused forest fire that forever changed Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, one of the most unique and beloved scenic areas in the Pacific Northwest.

Guided by the story of the Eagle Creek Fire—and the ordeal of the 150 hikers who were unexpectedly trapped behind its towering flames—Wildfire explores how, over the last 100 years in the United States, we have demonized and sought to suppress wildfire in an effort to preserve natural resources, scenic spaces, and, of course, human civilization.

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