Poem: A Future with Fire

four figures in prescribed burn gear wearing helmets with headlights walk beside a large nighttime prescribed burn.
Firing Boss Joe Jerry (Karuk 1 Handcrew), leads a tribal firing team on the Tishawnik prescribed burn in Orleans, CA on June 22, 2020.

By Will Harling

In ten years, the fire ceremonies on Offield Mountain will be restored,
And people will see that we made the wild in fire,
In ten years, an interconnected series of well planned fuelbreaks,
Will allow us to share the inherent risk of managed wildfire and prescribed fire,
Everyone will know there is no solution that does not include fire on the land,
In ten years, Californians will think about fire like Floridians,
Prescribed fire will still be more fun but about as stressful as mowing the lawn,
We will realize as a society that we can’t bomb fire off the landscape,
That we can suppress it from doing what it has always done,
Clear away the skeletons to make room for new life,
Ten years from now, we will manage landscapes for processes not species,
And what seems like conflicts and tradeoffs will be revealed as the balance,
The balance of life on the land,
Ten years from now, or perhaps a hundred, we will learn to live with fire,
Because the lessons will keep coming,
Eventually every one of us will have lost a piece of what we love,
And will choose the uncertainty of embracing fire, even while it burns us,
To the fear of living with a fiery grim reaper in the canyon below,
In ten years, or perhaps a hundred,
We will have a shared vision of the fire and the forest we are managing towards,
Based on thousands of years of fire knowledge,
Based on the best fire science our human brains can muster,
Women will be in leadership roles in the fire world,
Because we will understand that as givers of life,
They have a keener sense of fire in balance,
In ten years, creeks that have been dry for decades will flow again,
Salmon will turn gravels that have long been out of reach,
The fruits of the land will be sweeter, the deer and elk fatter,
We will remember what it means to be stewards of place,
To give back what is owed to the land that feeds us.