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Fighting Fire With Fire

Raises questions about conventional methods of fighting fire, and whether decades of suppressing fire have simply made matters worse.

A printer-friendly version of this page 44 minutes
Closed Captioned

Directed by Michelle Metivier
Produced by CBC's "The Nature of Things"
Written by Michelle Metivier
Executive Producer Michael Allder
Hosted by David Suzuki
Edited by Susan Martin

"Ideal for classroom use because of the depth and quality of the presentation." James G. Lewis, author of The Forest Service and The Greatest Good: A Centennial History
Monster forest fires, big enough to be seen from space and hot enough to create their own weather, used to be a once-in-a-decade nightmare. But now, they're an everyday summer reality across vast stretches of North America. Authorities in Canada and the United States are bracing for increasing infernos each fire season.

A timely documentary, Fighting Fire with Fire takes audiences onto the fire line and brings them face-to-face with raging fires that are literally unstoppable. This provocative film raises questions about conventional methods of fighting fire, and whether decades of suppressing fire have simply made matters worse. The long-standing lesson taught by Smokey the Bear goes out the window as a new controversial approach to fighting fire is examined.

Fighting Fire with Fire ventures into the forests of Banff National Park, where the park wardens are deliberately setting fires known as "prescribed burns." They are taking accepted practice (if it's on fire, put it out), and doing the exact opposite. One goal is to try and prevent bigger, hotter, faster fires; another is to regenerate the land, creating conditions for flora and fauna to thrive.

As viewers discover in Fighting Fire with Fire, this little-known phenomenon is working. Experts explain that fire has always been part of our landscape, but forces like global warming and "hit it hard, hit it fast" fire management policies have conspired to create infernal blazes.

Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2007     Copyright Date: 2005
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-663-2     VHS ISBN: 1-59458-662-4

"By examining several recent wildfires in British Columbia and the historic 1988 Yellowstone fire, and interviewing fire history and firefighting experts, Fighting Fire With Fire addresses pressing and vital questions in the ongoing debate over fire's presence in the western landscape: What is the role of fire in a forest ecosystem? How has the perception of fire changed over the last century? Why is it a necessary yet controversial management tool and what is involved in using it? and What are the pros and cons of using it? As these questions are raised and explored over the course of the film, the viewer will come to understand the history of fire in the western American and Canadian landscapes and its vital role in reshaping (and rejuvenating) those landscapes in the future. This film is ideal for classroom use because of the depth and quality of the presentation achieved within its 44-minute length."
James G. Lewis, Forest History Society Staff Historian and author of The Forest Service and The Greatest Good: A Centennial History

"This film does a superb job of exploring the issue of forest fires--including their significance as an ancient and natural process--a process that has been sculpting the landscape for hundreds of millions of years, and has been a key part of human ecology for 1.5 million years. No one can do a better job of explaining the role of fire on Earth than Dr. Stephen Pyne...and including him in this film shows that it was well-planned and well-done.
Only by accepting and embracing the role of fire on the landscape, and human's vital role and responsibility in managing that fire--in lighting fires under certain conditions, fighting them in others, but not just viewing fire only as an enemy to be battled--will we be able to shape the landscape to our needs, and live safely on this, our fire planet."
Johnny Stowe, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist, Forester and former Chairman of the South Carolina Prescribed Fire Council

"Very well done and quite informative...Fighting Fire with Fire helps viewers understand why wildfires are becoming more frequent and catastrophic. It carefully explains how prescribed fire is being used to restore western forest ecosystems and reduce the intensity of future wildfires in large wilderness areas. The future prognosis for our public forests is challenged by climate change, insect damage, and heavy fuel loads. We need thoughtful and proactive approaches to forest management, like those demonstrated at Banff National Park."
Martha Monroe, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida

"Fighting Fire with Fire is not a training video on prescribed burning - it is much more. This well produced documentary effectively illustrates the magnitude of forest fires in western North America in terms of both human and environmental impacts, and then introduces the use of controlled burns to reduce the chances of catastrophic wildfires. The film certainly would provide a solid introduction to these topics for those unfamiliar with forest fire science and management. The video greatly enhances its usefulness by introducing a number of interesting and related topics, including the ideas of fire dominated ecosystems and successional change, the possible role of land-use policies and building codes in reducing property damage, the influence of global warming on fire frequencies and intensities worldwide, the importance of public opinion in determining forest management policies and practices, and the historical use of fire by indigenous peoples. Hence, this would be an excellent video for stimulating a discussion of the many inter-related issues regarding wild and controlled fires in forested landscapes and human-environment interactions. Obviously well suited for an introductory environmental science course in high school or college, it might similarly prove useful with public groups facing the potential of life-altering wildfires."
James Lassoie, Professor, Brent Boscarino, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University

DVD $250
VHS $250
DVD $75
VHS $75
Reduced rates for activist and grassroots groups. Please inquire.

Awards and Festivals
Nominated, Gemini Awards
Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival
Amazing Earthfest, Kanab UT

Air Pollution
American Studies
Canadian Studies
Climate Change/Global Warming
Earth Science
Forests and Rainforests
Natural Resources

Related Titles

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The Decade of Destruction
A unique chronicle of the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest.

The Decade of Destruction (Classroom Version - On One Tape)
The story of the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest.

Turning Down The Heat
Renewable energy sources and energy conservation are the solution to global warming.

... more Reviews

"Fighting Fire with Fire is a timely documentary ideal for junior high through college classroom viewing...Highly recommended."
Midwest Book Review

"Educating the public is vital so that they understand that fire is a natural part of the ecosystem. The organization and topical content of this film offer versatility, allowing classes across the curriculum to utilize it to study timely issues of global warming, fire science, land use patterns, and allocation of dollars."
School Library Journal

"A sweeping, but condensed, look at the current state of forest fires and fire suppression...There is a lot of good information here."
AAAS's Science Books and Films

"Well presented and there are no other films available on this topic. Highly recommended for junior-high through adult audiences."
Barbara Butler, University of Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, Educational Media Reviews Online

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