The photo above is of the BC Wildfires of 2017.


Nature created it. Humans learned to harness it. Now, as the planet heats up, scientists are desperately trying to understand it. A compelling new documentary looks at the science of fire, especially in light of this summer’s massive wildfires in British Columbia and the 2016 fire that devastated Fort McMurray.  Into The Fire provides viewers with some startling revelations about that timeless process called ‘fire.’  It premieres on CBC’s The Nature of Things on Sunday, November 5 at 8PM  (8:30PM NL).  

Fire has always been a source of fascination – and fear—for director Leora Eisen. “When I was 21 and living in a high rise apartment, the fire alarm went off at three in the morning,” she recalls.  “I remember walking down the staircase in a daze, my eyes burning from the smoke, and being scared out of my wits.”

Our relationship with fire is complicated. Through the ages, we’ve used it for essentials like creating warmth and cooking food, but we’ve also been overwhelmed by its destructive power.   It impacted Canada when more than one million hectares of land burned in B.C., and the Fort McMurray wildfire – known as “the Beast”- forced the evacuation of nearly 90,000 residents.   Into the Fire includes striking eyewitness footage of the fire moving from the forest into Fort McMurray’s neighbourhoods.

One of the biggest mysteries is why one house burns down, while the one next door survives. That’s why fire safety consultant Alan Westhaver takes us on a tour through the partially burned residential areas of Fort McMurray, pointing out the lessons we can learn from the ashes.

“A spark can light a raging inferno,” says University of Alberta wildfire expert Mike Flannigan.  “And where fire intersects with people, the results can be disastrous.” He heads to B.C.’s biggest blaze to give viewers a riveting glimpse into fire behaviour.

Into the Fire also takes viewers to Australia’s outback, where the indigenous population has long had a benign relationship with fire. As a local fire ecologist explains, “We are the boss of the fire, we don’t want to see the fire become a boss of us.”  

But it’s not just the fires in our forests that are becoming more dangerous. According to Ottawa Fire’s Peter McBride, “modern homes have become like easy bake ovens.” As our homes have changed, urban firefighters have had to change tactics.  Viewers may be very surprised to see examples of just how combustible our houses are.

“Now that I’ve finished the film, I’m even more fascinated by fire,” says Leora Eisen. “But I’ve also learned from the scientists that it’s more important to respect it than fear it.”  After all, notes researcher and former firefighter Josh Johnston, “it was on this landscape before we were.” 

Follow Into the Fire on social media: Facebook and Twitter

The film is produced by 90th Parallel Productions Ltd in association with CBC and with the participation of the Canada Media Fund, The Government of Canada –Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit Program, and the Ontario Media Development Corporation – Tax Credit Program.

Katie Kish is a postdoctoral fellow for the Economics for the Anthropocene project at McGill University and lecturer at the University of British Columbia's Haida Gwaii Institute. Kaitlin's background is in systems thinking, ecological economics, and complexity science which she applies to her current research on exploring radical and disruptive political economies and possible pathways to alternative futures - particularly related to new forms of production and manufacturing in localized economies. Katie has a PhD in Social and Ecological Sustainability from the University of Waterloo.  Twitter: @ktkish 

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