Rail Fire

Smoldering remnants of the 2015 Rail Fire.

A documentary examining the history of forest management and the scale of wildfires across the western part of the country will be premiering on Oregon Public Broadcasting Thursday.

The film is set to air on OPB plus, an Oregon Public Broadcasting affiliate, at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“The West is Burning” looks at the last 20 years of wildfires that have swallowed up areas the size of California and Florida combined and then does a deep-dive into the history of forest management and social conflict that led to the current conditions.

The film’s director, Cody Sheehy, a Wallowa County native, said wildfires are becoming a more significant issue, where they are starting to burn into the wildland-urban interface to the point where the fires leveled whole towns.

“Another layer on top of that is the smoke and health issues and the potential that climate change will continue to increase the conditions with which these catastrophic fires happen,” he said.

He said, while climate change is something the world is stuck with, the good news is there are people in communities — scientists, environmentalists, and resources managers — who have, for decades, been working on real-world solutions.

Those perspectives drive the narrative in the documentary and underscore the need to rethink how forests are managed across the west.

“Chronicling the issue,” he said, “I think we uncovered that there are very concrete actions we can take.”

However, he said, no one action is a silver bullet, and each region has its own solution.

To learn more about the film, visit westisburning.org.


Steven Mitchell is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. Contact him at steven@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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