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Indigenous Fire

Kiliii Yuyan | CA, United States

Elizabeth Azzuz, a Yurok tribal member and head of the Indigenous People's Burn Network, opens an Indigenous cultural burn training by lightning a ceremonial fire with sage, near Weitchpec, CA.

Each summer, headlines around the world shout about the seemingly apocalyptic wildfires raging across the American West. Despite the intense focus on the problem itself, scant attention is paid to solutions- including one particularly pragmatic solution to climate-change exacerbated wildfire. It's at first non-intuitive– fire-lighting rather than fire-fighting– but it has proven to be an exception weapon against a seemingly impossible opponent on a landscape-level scale.

It's known as cultural fire. People like Margo Robbins and Elizabeth Azzuz of the Indigenous Peoples' Burn Network are training others in an ancient technique of ecological restoration, which is to safely light low-intensity fires in wet seasons that remove the small fuels on the forest floor. Not only does it effectively prevent wildfires from spreading, but it also performs a 13,000 year old function- the restoration of health of the forests of Northern California, the most diverse coniferous forests on earth.


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