As we approach fire season (as if it is not always fire season somewhere at this point), a reminder to fight for burning rights throughout the United States. Where we can burn in early spring, we must. It’s essential for the health of the land, for Indigenous rights, and to prevent more volatile fires from happening.
There are many people within our government that would like us to revert to full fire suppression, for various reasons. It’s important to keep in mind that this fight for the right of fire on the land in a healthy way has been ongoing, ever since the Spanish began encroaching from the south and committing genocide, and other Europeans began decimating Indigenous traditions and people of fire from the east. Fire-suppression is ROOTED in racist, colonial belief systems that disregard Indigenous knowledge.
As I see it, there is a huge opportunity to hand fire back to Indigenous people and stand with them in bringing back Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Not only that, many of us have the tools, both literally and figuratively, to create great change. In our various regions we must fight against archaic burn bans, especially in these vital weeks as moisture evaporates and fuels dry out and become more fire-prone.
My tool is my pen and that’s the only tool I have. If you are working in fire, please make your voice heard— especially if you hold any position of power, both within government agencies or nonprofits. If you’d like to be interviewed you’re welcome to contact me, especially if you are from a marginalized background.
I think it’s important that, as we head into another fire season, we continue to look at everything very critically. The wastefulness of fire camps, from the water bottles to the piles of trash to the micro-litter strewn throughout forests and deserts and gasoline and diesel and greenhouse gasses emitted, which in turn create more volatile fires through climate change. The mechanisms of power within certain stations, regions, crews, and structures that continue to oppress those with opposing voices or ways of being or identities. The power exerted on certain agencies by logging companies. Can you think of other things? Leave them in the comments below.
I want this fire season to be one of loud voices. Truth-telling. Standing up for each other and ourselves. I am an idealist and I think things can change. This isn’t me saying that people haven’t been loud enough— I know many have worn their voices raw trying to help others understand the root of the fire suppression industrial complex, and how it operates. Its toxicity and its current assumed necessity. But I do feel that more can speak up. If you feel like you haven’t been loud enough, now may be the time.
I loved this post on Instagram:
Those of us who are fighting for good fire are part of a lineage— whether we know it or not. A lineage of Indigenous people fighting for their rights, the lineage of A. Starker Leopold who wrote The Leopold Report, which called for more fires in National Parks, the lineage of California foresters who wrote pieces advocating fire fire use in California when the light burning debate was just beginning, before it even led to the 10am policy, the legacy of Southerners staunchly standing in support of fires remaining in Florida and the pine forests of the deep south. We are part of lineages, and we have their research behind us.
When Europeans came to the United States they took Indigenous land and turned it into National Parks and Forests, then violently moved Indigenous people onto reservations, which shrank and shrank. This is the legacy of fire suppression. To think otherwise is delusional.
As you all may or may not know, I am currently writing a book about my experiences as a hotshot and the fire industrial complex. The manuscript is printed out, and I am sending my editor my revisions in a month in a half. That means I will be posting more historical notes and context as fire season approaches, as well as weekly roundups. It also means I’d like to include other voices in this newsletter.
If you are someone who thinks you’d like to write something for this publication, let me know. I’d love to have some words on here other than mine. Indigenous, Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, women, and other marginalized voices especially are encouraged to write in.
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Yes, you’re accurate. The control burning, loving, participatory act of the Indigenous people caring for our forests is part of the way forward. We live now with the Faustian bargains we have made as a society. Time to return effective control to we the people - for the sake of everyone. In many ways this is what our founding ancestors imagined even though they were well aware of the compromises they had made with failing to guarantee human rights to all - including Native Americans, women and people of color. We have failed too but we can remedy this.