This documentary aired Sunday, November 5, 2017 on CBC-TV
Nature created it. Humans harnessed it. And now, as climate change helps light a flame to our forests, scientists are desperately trying to understand it. This compelling documentary travels from Alberta to Australia to follow researchers and firefighters as they head straight Into the Fire.
To director Leora Eisen, fire has always been a source of fascination – and fear. “When I was 21 and living in a high rise apartment, the fire alarm went off at three in the morning. 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 to stay warm, cook dinner, even decorate our birthday cakes. But we’ve also been devastated by its destructive path. This past summer, more than one million hectares of the B.C. landscape went up in smoke. In 2016, the Fort McMurray wildfire – known as “the Beast”- forced the evacuation of nearly 90,000 residents.
SCENE FROM THE FILM: Research shows that the window to escape a burning home has been reduced from 17 to 3 minutes.
“A spark can light a raging inferno,” says Univ. of Alberta wildfire expert Mike Flannigan. “And where fire intersects with people, the results can be disastrous.” In Into the Fire, he heads to B.C.’s biggest blaze to give viewers a riveting glimpse into fire behaviour.
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 neighbourhoods of Fort McMurray, a year after the fire. “There are lessons in the ashes,” he notes.
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.
“Now that I’ve finished the film, I’m even more fascinated by fire,” says director 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.”
Watch the full episode here. (Only available in Canada.)
Into the Fire is directed by Leora Eisen. Executive Producer is Gordon Henderson of 90th Parallel Productions.