“Story is what makes us unique, and keeps us together”–Kimberly Carlson, Novelist, Teacher, and Activist
In California’s rural communities, where housing and agriculture exist close to dense brush and forested areas, wildfires have become a seasonal occurrence with lingering impacts for the people affected. Cal Fire has reported that some of the state’s recent wildfires have started burning faster, longer, like 2018’s Carr Fire which burned in Shasta and Trinity County for 39 days.
Cal Fire has ranked the Carr Fire among twenty of the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history, a fire which led to the destruction of over 200,000 acres of wildlife and destroyed and damaged over 1,600 structures. In early 2020, Project Director Kimberly Carlson, a Redding-area writer, and teacher set out to develop a program that would allow survivors of the Carr Fire to record and share their Carr Fire stories in writing workshops that focused on crafting personal narratives about these experiences. With the support of a Humanities for All Quick Grant, Carlson led “Your Carr Fire Story, Written and Heard” in collaboration with the Shasta County Arts Council. Project participants included both novice and seasoned writers from across the Redding area who gathered to reflect and record their experiences with the Carr Fire.
While the project’s implementation was partially interrupted by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the early months of the state’s safer at home order, Carlson pivoted the program to a series of virtual workshops. Carlson remarked that for some of the program’s participants, the stress of the pandemic opened wounds that the Carr Fire caused. She explains, “I spoke to several people who told me that their fears resurfaced when the pandemic hit. I was told it was good to talk to someone, to write and be heard.” Now, over two years after the Carr Fire has burned, community members continue to heal and rebuild from the aftermath of these experiences with the help of projects such as “Your Carr Fire Story.”
Audio of participants in this program recounting their fire stories is broadcasted on Jefferson Public Radio. Listen to The First Installment Of “Your Carr Fire Story” here and Pen To Paper, Voice To Microphone: Carr Fire Stories here.