The American Wildfire Experience began as The Smokey Generation, a wildland fire oral history and digital storytelling project. The Smokey Generation is a passion project dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing the stories and oral history of wildland fire – we’ve collected stories from wildland firefighters representing every decade from the 1940s to present. Our goal is to collect and share stories from wildland firefighters throughout the country so that we can preserve the history and culture of the wildland firefighting industry and stimulate discussion about wildland fire itself. With more than 100 oral history interviews, the collection is a rich and engaging representation of the world of wildland fire. Here are a few videos from the collection:
The project contains a rich collection of histories, experiences, and perspectives. Well worth a visit! TheSmokeyGeneration.com
A multi-media exploration of how we experience fire.
In 2017, California experienced what became (at the time) the largest wildland fire in the state’s history, the Thomas Fire. Striking in its ferocity and driven by prolonged Santa Ana winds, the Thomas Fire set responders back on their heels and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents in the fire’s vicinity. Just over a month after ignition, while the fire was still yet uncontained, seasonal rains came through the fire area and triggered a series of debris flows that killed 23 people (two people remain missing). While wildland fires are part of life in Southern California, what is remarkable about this fire, is it started and rapidly grew to 281,893 acres in the month of December.
The American Wildfire Experience teamed up with MYSTERY RANCH and GIS company Gage Carto, to create a web-based digital story exploring the Thomas Fire from ignition through recovery. One part exploration of how we, as a collective, experience wildland fires, and one part data-driven examination of how the Thomas Fire became one of the largest wildland fires in California’s history, this project aims to help capture and share the story of this unique fire using a blend of oral history and digital storytelling techniques. Through crowdsourced content, oral history interviews, and interactive maps, this project will shine the light on first responders, wildland firefighters, community members, and the Thomas Fire itself – conveying and showcasing some of the stories and experiences that came out of this historic event.