Alana Sahar Godner-Abravanel


Playing with Fire: Three Stories of Burning the Forest

Advised by Emily Wettstein

This thesis follows the language of fire between three characters and a forest in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. In this region, the “good fire” of prescribed burning is deployed within a nonhuman ecological silo, failing to embrace fire’s histories and potentials as an agent of social and political transformation. This project invites that challenge, suggesting forms of communal burning that wield fire as a catalyst of dialogue between each other, the stories we bring, and the forests we inhabit. 

The site is at once a US Forest Service experimental forest, home of the town of Challenge, and ancestral homeland of the Nisenan people. Each story elicits a future of fire—as participation in the burn, cultivation of non-extractive forest-relationships, and leverage for land access—with moments that welcome us into the frictions of burning together, in pursuit of fire as a collective force of human nature.

Line drawings over a contour map background with a marked fire iine. Images include hands with a drip torch, plucking a mushroom, and holding a notepad labeled BURN PLAN, a twig with emergent leaves and buds and a bee, tree branches and roots, and three people near a large mound of cut and split wood.