Hello! My name is Bethany E. Hannah; I am Early Stage Researcher (ESR) 14 with PyroLife. I am excited to be working under the direction and guidance of Dr. Israel Rodríguez-Giralt at Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. Specially, I’ll be working within the CareNet Research Group studying community engagement around wildland fire risk. I will also be working with the National Fire Protection Association in the USA and Scion Research Institute in New Zealand for my secondments.
I am from the United States of America and have spent most of my life living on the west coast, where the land was shaped as much by wildfire as it was by wind, rain, and snow. I currently live in California and have been involved in the wildland fire industry in one way, shape, or form for more than 20 years. My experience includes working for the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management as a wildland firefighter, including as a Hotshot for the better part of a decade (Hotshots are a specialized type of wildland fire crew that travels all over the country suppressing wildland fires, performing forestry-related work, and conducting prescribed burns). This experience exposed me to a wide variety of wildland fire in different ecosystems, under varying conditions, and with a variety of “values at risk.” This experience led me to understand that fire is as much a social and cultural issue as it is an environmental one.
As I was fighting fire in the summer, I chipped away at my undergraduate degree in the winter, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English/literature with a minor focus in political ecology from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington USA. I continued the trend of chipping away at my studies through my graduate work, achieving a Masters of Arts degree in Environmental Studies from Prescott College in Arizona, USA, with a concentration in wildland fire management and communications.
My Master’s thesis work led me to start a wildland fire oral history and digital storytelling project called The Smokey Generation, which I later turned into non-profit organization called the American Wildfire Experience. The non-profit has continued the work of The Smokey Generation and expanded with a variety of initiatives that showcase how people experience wildland fire, including through a collaborative, community-sourced, map-based multimedia exploration of the Thomas Fire (which burned in Southern California in 2017) and with our annual Wildland Fire Digital Storytelling Micro-grants which award small grants to international wildland fire practitioners who are telling the story of fire in creative and important ways through photography, videography, and writing.
I’m excited to be representing the social science side of PyroLife, as I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of understanding our human relationship to wildland fire. My work will be centered around how to effectively engage communities at risk—a critical process in wildland fire management that’s been hindered by the current pandemic and by chronic under-funding. Importantly, I am thrilled beyond belief to be a part of a consortium of forward-thinking individuals and organizations that are looking at innovative ways to approach how societies can and should live with fire.