INTO THE FIRE

Filmmaker Alex Jablonski takes us into the heart of wildfires to introduce us to the brave men and women who fight them, as they struggle with fear, loyalty, demons and dreams, while risking the ultimate sacrifice.

Aired on October 31, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> EVERY SUMMER THOUSANDS OF LARGE WILDFIRES BURN ACROSS THE HOT, DRY WESTERN UNITED STATES.

AS CLIMATE CHANGE INCREASED, AVERAGE TEMPERATURES, A SUDDEN INCREASE IN FREQUENCY AND INTENSITY OF WILDFIRES.

INSIDE EACH OF THESE FIRES ARE SMALL CREWS WHO WORK TO CONTAIN THEM BY HAND USING SHOVELS AND PICKAXES AND METHODS THAT HAVEN'T CHANGE EADE ESSENTIALLY IN 60 YEARS.

AS A PART OF OUR PBS INITIATIVE, PERIL AND PROMISE, A LOOK AT THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

WE FOCUS ON A NEW INDEPENDENT LENS DOCUMENTARY CALLED 'WILDLANDS' WHICH TELLS THE EPIC YET INTIMATE STORY OF ONE CREW BATTLING WILDFIRES IN THE WEST.

TAKE A LOOK.

I DON'T NEED IT TO PLAY EVERY DAY.

I CAN DO THIS THING CALLED ADULTHOOD.

FIGHTING FIRE IS JUST HOURS OF HARD, BORING WORK, PUNK KMU AKMU -- PUNCTUATED BY MOMENTS OF SHEER TEARROR.

I WANT TO WORK HARD FOR A REASON.

THIS KID FINALLY REALIZES HE'S ALIVE.

'WILDLAND.' PART OF INDEPENDENT LAND ON PBS.

JOINING ME NOW FROM LOS ANGELES, CO-DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER OF 'WILDLANDS.' GLAD TO HAVE YOU.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS SUBJECT?

SO IT'S PRETTY EASY.

I FIRST SAW MY FIRST WILDFIRE WHEN I WAS 10 YEARS OLD, ON A HIKE OUTSIDE OF JACKSON, WYOMING, AND I REMEMBER SEEING THE GUYS GOING IN, HIKING IN TO FIGHT IT, AND JUST BEING IMMEDIATELY INTERESTED IN THE IDEA OF GOING A FIRE TO GO AND PUT IT OUT.

IT SEEMS INSANE.

BUT IT ALSO SEEMED JUST THIS KIND OF BEAUTIFUL DANCE WITH NATURE.

AND REALLY INTERESTING TO ME.

AND THEN AS I WAS LOOKING FOR A NEW FILM TO MAKE, THE QUESTION OF KIND OF, WHAT'S A STORY WE COULD TELL ABOUT HOW YOUNG MEN GROW UP OR COME OF AGE THAT WOULD BE INTERESTING AND HASN'T BEEN DONE BEFORE?

WHAT WOULD THAT LOOK LIKE?

IMMEDIATELY KIND OF THE IDEA OF THAT WITH A LOT OF MY FIRE FIGHTING CREW CLICKED AND IT WENT FROM THERE.

I UNDERSTAND YOU ALSO DID TRAINING?

FIRE FIGHTING TRAINING FOR THIS?

TO GET A SENSE OF THIS?

YEAH.

I MEAN, TO ACTUALLY -- EVEN BEYOND THAT.

TO MAKE THE FILM WE ACTUALLY BECAME FIREFIGHTERS AND WERE ACTUALLY MEMBERS OF THE CREW.

SO WHEN WE WERE OUT THERE DOING SHOOTING 10% 15, 15% OF OUR TIM ACTUALLY WORKING.

HAULING HOSE, HIKING, DOING EVERYTHING YOU SEE OUR CREW OR ANY OTHER CREW DOES AND ON OCCASION BREAK OUT THE CAMERA AND GET SHOT.

TELL ME ABOUT THE PERSONAL MOTIVATIONS THAT GOT THE CHARACTERS IN YOUR FILM TO SAY, THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO.

I THINK THAT WITH THIS CREW IN PARTICULAR, THIS IS A CREW WHERE GUYS ARE GETTING THEIR FEET WET IN FIRE FOR THE FIRST TIME.

THESE ARE ALL ROOKIES.

THIS IS THE KIND OF BOTTOM RUNG WHERE YOU'RE GOING TO START OUT ON YOUR CAREER IN WILDFIRES, THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO.

I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE COME TO THIS JOB ALMOST TOSSING THEMSELVES TO THE WIND TO SEE WHAT FATE HAS FOR THEM.

TRIED OTHER THINGS BUT ARE YOUNG.

TWO ARE OUR CHARACTERS JUST TURNED 23.

AT THAT AGE, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT'S GOING ON WITH THEIR LIVES.

WHAT KIND OF MEN THEY WANT TO BE.

AND THERE'S AN ELEMENT OF KIND OF TESTING YOURSELVES WITH THIS JOB.

TO SEE HOW YOU'RE GOING TO HOLD UP UNDER THE STRESS AND PRESSURE AND UNDER THE LONG HOURS.

I THINK THAT THESE GUYS WERE LOOKING FOR THAT.

KIND OF LOOKING FOR, DO I HAVE THIS IT GRIT?

DO I HAVE THE DETERMINATION TO DO THIS?

AND IF I DO, HOW IS THAT GOING TO CHANGE THE COURSE OF MY LIFE?

TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGES OF TRYING TO FILM WHEN IN THE MIDST OF FIGHTING A WILDFIRE?

THE PHYSICALITY OF MAKING THIS FILM IS SOMETHING I THINK SETS IT APART, BECAUSE WE HAD TO HIKE IN.

CARRYING 55 POUNDS OF GEAR, AND WORKING LONG HOURS.

WORKING SHIFTS AS A MINIMUM OF ABOUT 12 HOURS.

I THINK THAT THE CHALLENGE, OF COURSE, IS, NOT, YOU KNOW, BEING EXHAUSTED.

BUT WITH THAT EXHAUSTION COMES -- FINDING MOTIVATION TO STILL MAKE GOOD WORK.

FINDING A WAY TO STILL, LIKE, GO AND GET THAT SHOT OR PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT'S GOING ON.

YOU'RE THE ONLY PERSON ON THE CREW TRYING TO MAKE A SPARK IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT THING.

ONE GENTLEMAN SAYS HOURS OF LONG, HARD, BORING WORK.

PUNCTUATED BY MOMENTS OF SHEER TERROR.

DOES THAT CAPTURE IT?

A LOT OF HURRY UP AND WAIT.

A LOT OF JUST, RIDING IN CARS.

TO GET FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER, AND EXHAUSTION, AND BUG BITES, AND HEAT, ALL THAT.

I THINK THAT ALL OF THAT -- IS A BIG PART OF THE JOB AND THEN THERE ARE TIMES EXHILARATING, HELICOPTERS FLY IT'S OVERHEAD AND BUCKET DROPS.

WHEN YOU'RE AT A FIRE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE AT THE CENTER OF THE ALL THE OTHER STUFF.

G IS WORTH-

ON YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY HERE, WAS THERE SOMETHING THAT SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT THAT JOURNEY?

I THINK THAT THE THING THAT SURPRISED ME THE MOST IS -- HOW THE GUYS DRAW ON THE EXPERIENCES THEY HAD AT 22 AND 23, PARTICULARLY IN FIRE, THEY CARRY THROUGHOUT FOREVER, THROUGHOUT THE REST OF THEIR LIVES AND SOMETHING THEY ALWAYS POINT BACK TO, WHEN GOING THROUGH DIFFICULT TIMES.

IF I SURVIVE THAT, I CAN SURVIVE THIS.

A FABULOUS FILM AND YOU DID MARVELOUS WORK.

I THANK YOU FOR SPENDING A LITTLE TIME AND TALKING WITH US ABOUT IT.

YOU BE WELL.

THANK YOU.

TAKE CARE.

> A REMINDER, THE DOCUMENTARY 'WILDLAND' LAUNCHES THE NEW SEASON OF INDEPENDENT LENS MONDAY OCTOBER 29th, 2018 ON PBS AT 9:00 P.M.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, GO TO METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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