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“Global fire crisis:” Why the world keeps burning and what we should do about it

▶ Watch Video: “Bring Your Own Brigade” searches for answers to world’s wildfire crisis

When a California couple’s gender reveal party sparked a 22,000 acre wildfire in 2020 that killed a firefighter, courts legally charged the duo for igniting the flames. But locating the source for the increasingly worsening “global fire crisis” isn’t always this simple. 

Two-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker said climate change is only one piece of the puzzle when considering why the world keeps burning. In her latest documentary, “Bring Your Own Brigade,” Walker explores the complex roots of the worldwide wildfire problem, including legislation, the logging industry, forestry practices and infrastructure. 

“It was really stunning to start to learn these other factors,” Walker told CBS News’ Vladimir Duthiers. “And that’s really good news actually because it means we can do something about it. There are several factors where we can really stop this fire problem.” 


Bring Your Own Brigade | Official Trailer

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The film follows residents following different wildfires, including the Camp Fire of 2018 — California’s most destructive, costliest and deadliest fire in state history. Ignited by an electrical problem from a Pacific Gas & Electric power line, 83 people were killed and at least 14,000 buildings and homes were destroyed. 

But residents and Walker note that the Camp Fire and others like it have complex origin stories. 

“A lot of that land is actually under the management of a logging company and we look at that as a factor as well, and think about how we’re using the land and also how we’re building and where we’re building,” Walker said. 

According to Global Forest Watch, the United States lost 15% of tree cover from 2001 to 2020. And forest losses are what the nonprofit organization, Climate Council, say are linked to global warming due to stored carbon being released into the atmosphere. Coupled with record-breaking droughts in certain areas, it makes for more active wildfire seasons than ever.

Walker also takes a deep dive into the relationship that infrastructure and its regulation has with wildfires, speaking to wildfire survivors who have had several of their properties destroyed. 

“Unfortunately the problem gets perpetuated in the building codes and the planning process,” she said. 

As for solutions to the global crisis, Walker highlights Indigenous fire management practices to consider, such as “prescribed burning” — or the intentional ignition of small fires to protect settlements from future fires by taking away burn fuel.

“When Europeans came and didn’t recognize the wisdom and advanced technologies that Native Americans were using as they managed their lands, we really set ourselves back,” Walker said.

Noting historic wildfires throughout centuries across the world, Walker said that wildfires will “burn all the time” in certain landscapes. “It’s about managing that rather than trying to eliminate or suppress all the fires,” she said.

Walker recommends coming together to address the issue. “A problem like the wildfires, a little bit like climate change and the pandemic we’re seeing, is it’s not something that we can solve individually without coming together.”


Watch “Bring Your Own Brigade” in theaters starting August 6, and stream it on the CBS News app and Paramount+ on August 20.


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