Can we live with wildfires?

Documentary film explores what could be done


September 15, 2022 | View PDF

Trip Jennings

A scene from "Elemental" that will be shown at the U.S. Basketball Academy.

Nearly 20 years ago the Biscuit fire burned across half a million acres in Southern Oregon. It also exposed a college sophomore to the controversy, science, and politics at play during and after the blaze.

That student was Trip Jennings who assembled a team to grapple with the complex debate around the fire and worked with scientists, advocates, and local citizens to capture the story in a documentary.

More than a decade later, the Eagle Creek fire ignited the Columbia River Gorge, a scenic area just a half hour from Jennings's 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.," he recalls. "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?"

After the fire, he took to the air with an expert scientist to assess the burn and created a short film that has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.

Over the last four years, Jennings has also visited burned landscapes and communities destroyed by fire. "I am deeply committed to changing the national conversation around wildfire," he says. That message is delivered in a new film he says shows how people can "have healthy forests and safe communities, and that we can prepare for and adapt to fire."

His new documentary, "Elemental: Redefining our Relationship with Wildfire" will be shown in Rainbow later this month. Go to Page 5 for more details.


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