“Just because it’s a view you’ve seen your whole life doesn’t mean it’s a normal, healthy forest.” Fire is inextricably linked to nature and to biodiversity.
My guest today is Dr. Justin Angle, creator of the podcast series “Fireline”, which is a deep dive into the realities of wildfire in the western United States.
Justin is Associate Professor of Marketing at The University of Montana in Missoula. He earned his Ph.D. and MBA from the Michael G. Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. Justin also produces his own interview podcast called A New Angle.
Today we focus on the aforementioned “Fireline” podcast series, which was released earlier this year through Montana Public Radio. If you haven’t heard the series, each of the seven episodes dive deeply into different aspects of wildfire. The series does an outstanding job presenting multiple points of view without an agenda other than to demonstrate that the topic is complicated and nuanced, and we all have a role to play in finding solutions.
Today, we discuss the topics Justin covered in his series, all centered around this idea that there is never a simple, single answer.
We discuss how wildfire impacts can be both positive and negative, depending on perspective and context.
We dig into the complexities of how years of wildfire policy and suppression have affected fire behavior, and how rising temperatures due to climate change catalyzes more and larger fires. We discuss the growth of the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) and how that creates more risk for negative human impact when wildfires occur. This includes the relatively recent research that shows that wind-blown embers can be a primary driver to fire spread and a primary risk to homes – not the towering flame front that we often envision. This radically changes how communities and homeowners need to prepare, which quickly turns into a sociology problem more than a science problem.
Any discussion of wildfire is incomplete without investigating human history and influence on wildfire, and Fireline covers indigenous use of fire through the perspective of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, as well as some fascinating anthropological research that we touch on today.
We also spend time looking at Justin’s atypical route to creating this show, and the process and partners he engaged to make it a reality. This show was produced at the peak of the pandemic, requiring Justin and his team to pivot to make the show a reality.
Justin is considering a season 2, so please give season 1 a listen, and help make season 2 possible.
You may also be interested in my interview with Rick Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute, where we took a deep dive into wildfire behavior, especially in chaparral habitats.
Links To Topics Discussed
People and Organizations
Fireline’s Collaborators: Jeff Hull, Nick Mott, Victor Yvellez, Josh Burnham, Aj Williams
Brent Ruby – Physiologist who studied fire fighters
Cathy Whitlock – climate scientist Justin refers to
Jim See – developed a trail to the site where Pulaski saved his crew in The Big Burn
Kimi Barrett of Headwaters Economics
Libby and Alex Metcalf – lead the Human Dimensions Lab at University of Montana
Lily Clarke – a wildland firefighter with interesting perspectives on wildfire
Richard Wrangham – Primatologist/Anthropologist interviewed in Fireline that advances a theory that fire led to the evolution that allowed us to become human
Tony Incashola Jr and Sr – Father and Son. Tribal members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. They are involved in wildfire management and culture of the tribes, providing historical and current perspectives on fire on the land.
Wildfire Adapted Missoula – inter-agency group engaging the public to adapt to and prepare for fire
Books and Other Things
A New Angle – Justin’s Interview-based Podcast
Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham
Fire in Paradise – the Netflix Documentary Justin refers to
Life with Fire – Recommended podcast by Amanda Monthei
Note: links to books are affiliate links
Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed
Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed
Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/