In 2018, the Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history. It claimed the lives of 86 people and ravaged four towns in Butte County. The town of Paradise was almost completely destroyed, levelling over 18,000 buildings and displaced 10,000 residents. Several fires hit the state at the same time, putting unmanageable stress on the already depleted resources of fire departments.
In Bring Your Own Brigade, award-winning filmmaker Lucy Walker trains her camera on the problem of wildfires in the US. Using the tragic events in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains as a starting point, she investigates the wider issues surrounding these, on the face of it, natural disasters. Uncovering a complicated picture of bad decisions, negligent deforestation practices, building in hazardous areas, climate change and years of under resourcing.
Bring Your Own Brigade is a difficult watch at times, conveying the full horror and raw power of the Camp Fire to life using a range of amateur footage. It’s a human story at its core and the impact on residents is huge, but Walker is equally concerned with the bigger picture. This is where the waters begin to get slightly muddied. There’s a lot to take in here and Bring Your Own Brigade is so wide-ranging that vital points can be lost in the mix. It’s most-successful when concentrating on the induvial cost.
Bring Your Own Brigade screened at Sundance Film Festival.