I was ready to give this film a couple more stars for bringing home in no uncertain terms, the human impact of the large CA wild fires. It also sheds light on some important aspects that a lot of people don't know about.
1. Fire is nothing new to California. It's something that has been happening for a very long time due to the cycles of intense rain that creates lots vegetation and drought which dries it into tinder.
2. Global warming has had only a very small impact and is not the reason for the uptick in size and frequency.
3. Human intervention in many forms has increased the size and deadliness of these fires. Logging, building in fire prone areas, clear cutting, poorly thought out reforestation, tree farms, general mismanagement, and misguided prevention.
4. It is possible to build homes that won't burn or are significantly harder to set alight, and seemingly small measures like 5 feet between a house and any vegetation can drastically reduce the risk of it burning down.
5. The lack of proscribed burning over the last few decades.
But about halfway in, the film starts to go wrong.
1. It gives PG&E almost a complete pass when in fact the company's perennial policy of deferred maintenance has been responsible for several large and particularly deadly fires. PG&E now has carte blanche, excuse me, a safety certificate, from the CA government to continue this practice.
2. It seems bent on the idea that only native Americans understand the need for proscribed burns when it's been understood by everyone involved in forestry for the better part of a century. Indeed, I was in Yosemite the last time the federal government was performing one.
3. It completely ignores the fact the resistance from clean air activists and the government of California has led to a severe diminishment of proscribed burns by the federal government, who are actually the largest landholders.
4. It covers accidental, and natural ignitions, but completely ignores arson which is also a problem.
5. It needlessly brings in unrelated topics. It actually manages to blend in a comment on vaccines, point out that the owner of a large timber company is Republican as if this is a crime, and then work in the term "white supremacy". It also portrays the citizens of Paradise in a subtlety unflattering light in and argument that people are too dumb to deserve individual rights.
In short, the filmmaker laced her political views and somewhat skewed and naïve sense of history into the narrative instead of remaining an impartial reporter of facts. Subtle propaganda taints what could have been a very important film for everyone.
Despite that, I recommend viewing it with the understanding that it is not an impartial judgement, wholly correct, or even complete. It makes some very good points when it's not being woke.