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Office of Emergency Services

Posted on: May 4, 2023

Elemental Documentary Film Screening and Q&A May 8 at 7pm

Elemental Reimagine Wildfire Film Screening Nevada Theatre

Submitted by the Onyx Downtown at the Nevada Theatre 

WHAT: Elemental: Reimagine Fire film and Q&A 
WHEN: Monday, May 8, 2023, 7:00 pm 
WHERE: Onyx Downtown at the Nevada Theatre 

“Elemental: Reimagine Wildfire” is an 84-minute documentary that aims to replace fire myths with science and outdated forest management practices with a variety of tested techniques, including prescribed and cultural burning. This film will be screened at the Onyx Downtown at the Nevada Theatre on Monday, May 8 at 7 pm. Following the screening, there will be a discussion that will touch on both practical aspects of fire preparation and recent grants. Nevada County has recently received over $1.5 million in grant funding for Forest Resilience Programs. Two of the recipient agencies, the City of Nevada City and Yuba Watershed Institute will be on hand to answer questions about their critical work in forest health, along with other fire management authorities. The panel, including a number of guests, will be moderated by Alex Keeble-Toll, M.A., M.Sc., Senior Analyst, Nevada County Office of Emergency Services.  

One of the many statistics that Elemental brings to bear on our understanding of wildfire is that six of the largest wildfires in the State’s history have happened in just a year. Since 1983, an average of nearly 72,000 fires have occurred in the US every year. 98% of fires are controlled and contained. The destruction caused by this 2% of fires has radically increased. California has the most advanced firefighting organization in the world. This film asks the question, how can wildfire still be happening in such a destructive manner? 

“The situation is a blinking Code Red for our nation.”— President Joe Biden 

Many California tribes have practiced cultural burning for millennia as a way to promote the health of plants and animals that provide food, clothing, ceremonial items, and more, in addition to the benefits of reducing fuels and preventing wildfires. California is a fire-dependent ecosystem and low- and moderate-intensity fire is part of an ecological stimulus that provides a multitude of benefits. Following the genocide of native peoples in combination with fire suppression policies, our forests now have a significant buildup of fuels, making wildfires difficult to contain. The tribal approach to fires is part of a culture that existed long before colonization or the creation of the US Forest Service in 1905. Margo Robbins, Cultural Fire Management Council, Yurok Tribal Member discusses tribal practices noting that ancestors included regular cycles of burning. There was a fire-adapted landscape with fire-adapted people: this is the tribal approach to fires. 

Many California tribes still practice cultural burning. Prescribed Burn Associations (PBAs), which are community-based, mutual aid networks help private landowners put “good fire” back on the land. The Yuba-Bear Burn Cooperative serving Nevada, Sierra, and Yuba Counties, is one such network.  

Professionals Jo Ann Fites-Kaufman, retired US Forest Service Fire Ecologist, Cordi Craig, Prescribed Fire Program Manager at Placer County RCD (Resource Conservation District) and Frances Ragle, Todd’s Valley Miwok Maidu Cultural Foundation and member of the Todd’s Valley Consolidated Tribe will join Sean Greyson, City of Nevada City, Chris Friedel of Yuba Watershed Institute and Pat Leach, Firewise Coordinator, Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, for questions and answers immediately following the film. 

The Onyx Downtown and Onyx Theatre thank these community members for generously offering their time to support wildfire preparedness. 

“I do not fight fire. I light fire.” — Rick O’Rourke, Cultural Fire Management Council, Yurok Tribal Member

*Opinions represented in the film Elemental: Reimagine Wildfire are not necessarily those of the panelists.

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