“Wildland” Tells the Epic Yet Intimate Story of One Crew Battling Wildfires in the New Season of Independent Lens

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25 October 2018
Photo: Courtesy of Kahlil Hudson
Monday, October 29 at 10PM ET on PBS
(Check your local listings)
          Filmed during two recent wildfire seasons, Wildland is a sweeping yet deeply personal account of a single wildland firefighting crew as they struggle with fear, loyalty, dreams, and demons. What emerges is a rich story of working-class men — their exterior world, their interior lives and the fire that lies between.
          Every summer, the American West burns. As climate change has increased, average temperatures have risen, resulting in a sudden increase in both the frequency and intensity of wildfires. Inside each of these fires are small crews who work to contain them by hand, using shovels, pickaxes, and methods that haven’t changed in sixty years.


          With a lifelong admiration for those who do this dangerous work, filmmakers and native Westerners Jablonski and Hudson went through firefighting training with the men in the film, in Grants Pass, Oregon, a sleepy mountain town. Here they toiled alongside and chronicled the lives of the men on their fire crew. Each of them has come to this work for personal reasons — for some, it’s a need to test themselves, or a desire for adventure and purpose; for others, it may be the job of last resort after time in prison or a lifetime of addiction.
Photo: Courtesy of Kahlil Hudson

           For 46-year-old John, it’s a final chance to let go of a troubled past and be a better father; for Charlie and Aidan, both 23-year-old Bible college dropouts, the summer holds the promise of challenges that will transform them from boys to men. For their crew boss Tim, a sixth-grade dropout and former meth addict, the tough work of firefighting is salvation. Together these men are tasked with facing nature’s most elemental force and finding their way through boredom, fear, and a job aptly described as “long hours of hard labor punctuated by moments of sheer terror.”  For each, it’s a chance to discover a piece of themselves that they’ll be able to carry forward forever. 
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