On September 2nd 2017, just east of Portland, Oregon, 150 hikers were trapped behind a wall of flames created by one mistake, one that would lead to immense fear and loss. Wildfire, a podcast from REI Co-op, investigates the causes and repercussions of this devastating wildfire.... Show More
May 28, 2019 48 min

Show transcript

On September 2, 2017, 150 hikers in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge were suddenly and terrifyingly trapped near Punch Bowl Falls by the Eagle Creek Fire, a human-caused forest fire that burned for three months and decimated some 50,000 acres in one of the most unique, beloved and popular scenic areas of the Pacific Northwest. Episode one of Wildfire tells these hikers’ story and explores the broader issue of forest fires and their often misunderstood and contentious place in the natural order of our forests.

Key takeaways:

  • 1:01 – “The whole valley was on fire.” - A first-hand account of the Eagle Creek Fire
  • 4:19 – Show Intro: The past, present and future of wildfire
  • 10:45 – “More than just a place.” - The Columbia River Gorge
  • 13:00 – The authorities learn of the Eagle Creek Fire
  • 15:09 – Where we start with the story of wildfire: The forest
  • 16:35 – Oregon’s forests, specifically those of the Columbia River Gorge
  • 22:29 – Trapped by fire; 150 hikers behind a wall of fire
  • 26:54 – “The real heart of the Gorge.” – What does this place mean to us?
  • 41:55 – The point of conflict: The encroachment of modern civilization on wild space
  • 43:27 – “I was one of the last people to see Tunnel Falls and The Punchbowl”- the escape
  • 46:31 – Who started the fire?
  • More About the Wildfire Podcast
    When a wildfire arrives at our doorstep, it’s a tragedy. This is especially true when these fires are human caused. But fire has always been an immense and immovable part of the natural order, particularly in the forests of the western United States.

    Forest fires and the destruction they cause are not black and white phenomenon, and they cannot be understood without looking closely at the issues that swirl and mutate around the subject of wildfire as much as the fires themselves.

    In Wildfire, hosts Graham Zimmerman and Jim Aikman explore the natural forest habitats in which wildfires burn, and how humans have historically interacted with forest fires and fire-susceptible terrain. Graham and Jim lead us into wild places impacted by forest fire; into history books; into conversations with scientists, naturalists, firefighters and politicians; and into the story of the destructive 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, a human-caused forest fire that forever changed Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, one of the most unique and beloved scenic areas in the Pacific Northwest.

    Guided by the story of the Eagle Creek Fire—and the ordeal of the 150 hikers who were unexpectedly trapped behind its towering flames—Wildfire explores how, over the last 100 years in the United States, we have demonized and sought to suppress wildfire in an effort to preserve natural resources, scenic spaces, and, of course, human civilization.

    Connect with the hosts

  • Graham's website and Instagram
  • Jim's website and Instagram 
  • Evan's (aka: The audio wizard) website and Instagram
  • Sean's (aka: The wordsmith) [website](Sean's (aka: the wordsmith) website)
  • You can see more of Graham and Jim's work through their production company, Bedrock Film Works. 

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