“Bring Your Own Brigade” Director Lucy Walker on “The Takeout”

In her latest documentary film “Bring Your Own Brigade,” Oscar-nominated director Lucy Walker investigates the causes of recent wildfires across California and the U.S. and also sets out to help the audience understand what these raging fires feel like from the perspective of the firefighters.

Shooting in 2018, as the Thomas Fire raged across California, Walker and her crew follow both firefighters and homeowners battling to save their properties from the onslaught of wildfires in the state.  

“I’m a Brit. I lived in New York and I moved to California. And I was confused when I saw these fires. I thought, why can’t we just put them out and that kind of curiosity. I knew there was more to it, because if we could put them out, we’d be putting them out,” Walker told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett in this week’s episode of “The Takeout” podcast. “Eventually I thought, gosh, that it better be me making it because no one else seems to be doing it.”

Walker described her approach to shooting the documentary as “an immersion into the full horror” of raging wildfires.

“The point was never to just sort of shock and horrify. There are horror movies for that. But the point was to give you a real, empowering experience,” Walker said, adding that her goal is to help provide a first-hand account of the wildfires “so that audiences can actually understand how these events unfold and what information is significant and what isn’t.”

While Walker said she originally intended to document how climate change has impacted the frequency and force of the fires, she discovered something else during production: the mistakes humans have made in trying to “protect” forests from uncontrollable fires.

“Climate change is a performance enhancer,” Walker said. “Obviously, extreme weather events are going to drive extreme fires. When there’s extreme winds and extreme temperature fluctuations, that’s going to drive the winds. These are going to fan the flames. But what we’re actually already seeing is other problems. It’s logging and it’s fire suppression that’s really coming back to haunt us, actually.”

Walker added that the longer fire seasons in California and around the country are taking a toll on firefighters, many of whom travel from fire to fire for months at a time.

“These poor firefighters are going through so much trauma. And, of course, we’re learning more about PTSD and how the trauma sort of builds up and builds up. And they’re also seeing really extremely challenging and sad things,” Walker said.

Highlights:

  • Walker on how she got the idea for “Bring Your Own Brigade”: “I’m a Brit. I lived in New York and I moved to California. And I was confused when I saw these fires. I thought, why can’t we just put them out and that kind of curiosity. I knew there was more to it, because if we could put them out, we’d be putting them out. And yet people were just sort of driving on by… Eventually I thought, gosh, that it better be me making it because no one else seems to be doing it.”
  • Climate change impact on fires: “Climate change is a performance enhancer… Obviously, extreme weather events are going to drive extreme fires. When there’s extreme winds and extreme temperature fluctuations, that’s going to drive the winds. These are going to fan the flames. But what we’re actually already seeing is other problems. It’s logging and it’s fire suppression that’s really coming back to haunt us, actually.”
  • Frequency and intensity of the fires: “You sort of start to glimpse how we’re in this pickle in the world with climate change, with the pandemic, with these big problems where we need to have people come together. We see that we love individuals and our individuality. But when it comes to getting people together to make, you know, big, difficult decisions, it’s really hard.”

For more of Major’s conversation with Walker, download “The Takeout” podcast on Art19, iTunesSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch “The Takeout” on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of “The Takeout” episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to “The Takeout” on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).    

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