Getting called, "an unsung bureaucratic hero of fire protection," doesn't happen every day, so when I listened to bits of my interview with Tufts undergraduate Jesse Greenfield recently, I felt proud in my own geeky way. Jesse is a biopsychology major at Tufts University and had a Science and Civic Action class with Professor Jonathan Garlick in the fall 2017 semester. She was assigned a project to produce a short podcast episode relevant to civic science, and she chose wildfire as her topic. I was honored to have my say about the state of wildfire safety and education, but I was much more moved by her personal perspective on wildfire as a San Diego native, and the snippets revealed by another student who lived through the 2007 Witch Creek Fire and 2003 Cedar Fire.
Jesse and her fellow student Vince described what it was like to survive wildfires in which friends lost homes, people in the area lost their lives, and they were forced to evacuate to safety with their families. Listen to the podcast (mp3 file) for Vince's comments about the 2007 Witch Creek fire and his childhood memories of having to evacuate. In conversation with Jesse, they start with a joking tone: "I grabbed my critical clothing..like my raincoat, my Pokemon shoes (ha ha ha)...it was third grade. Finding out what truly is of value to you...yeah, LEGO® (bricks), obviously."
The tone turns wistful when Jesse says, "But feeling like you have to do that is so surreal." Vince agrees. "It's a very odd feeling. I was pretty young, but the most poignant memories are definitely figuring out what you need...the anxiety...the smell, was so...just the smell, just a whiff of it. Even if there's like a barbecue and something's burning, I'll think of the fires." He feels today that his neighbors aren't paying much attention to the fire threat, and thinks that families being able to meet firefighters or to participate in brush-clearing projects could help.
Give Jesse's podcast a listen, and learn what you might do differently to change wildfire outcomes in the future.
Image: The Witch Creek Fire burning in San Diego County, on the night of Sunday, October 21, 2007. Image courtesy State Farm via Creative Commons license.