Author(s): Michele Steinberg. Published on June 2, 2022.

Listen to Linnea

A high school student from Oregon explains the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy in an engaging six-minute video 

How does the federal government impact your life? That was the question posed by the organizers of StudentCam, an annual C-SPAN video documentary competition that encourages middle- and high-school students to think critically about issues that affect their communities and the nation. Among the 2022 winners recently announced was Linnea Gebauer, a talented high school senior from Klamath Falls, Oregon, whose six-minute video, “Fire Season,” manages to do nothing less than explain the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (NCWFMS) in compelling detail. Gebauer brings this sprawling and somewhat obscure concept to life, highlighting the real and serious impacts of policy ranging from land management to community development to fuels reduction.

“Fire Season” opens with a brief shot of a wooded, snow-covered landscape. Gebauer steps into the frame, turns to the camera, and gets to work. “Right now I’m in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, just north of Beatty, Oregon,” she says. “With all this snow, it’s hard to imagine that, just last summer, all of this was on fire.” Her reference is to last year’s Bootleg Fire, the third-largest wildfire in Oregon’s history. She proceeds to weave interviews and video clips of national experts, me included, on the changes in the length of the annual fire season, the increasing home and community losses, and the spiraling costs of fighting wildfires. Moving quickly from problem statement to a set of solutions, Gebauer deftly breaks down the three goals of the National Cohesive Strategy: resilient landscapes, fire-adapted communities, and safe and effective wildfire response. She highlights specific techniques to help reach the goals, including prescribed fire to manage forest fuels, defensible space and wildfire prevention to protect homes and communities, and nationwide risk identification to better guide local and state governments to allocate firefighting and preparedness resources.

Earlier this year, “Fire Season” was posted on the StudentCam website and on YouTube. It didn’t take long before the wildfire community was abuzz—or perhaps a-Twitter. State foresters, public information officers, wildland firefighters, and the leaders of the NCWFMS itself took to social media to praise the clear and concise way that Gebauer told their story and outlined their goals. As someone working in the trenches of wildfire policy at NFPA, I was heartened to know that a high school student was able to translate the most important elements of key policy approaches in a personal and appealing way—a reminder that the reasons for the NCWFMS are as compelling today as they were when it was created in 2010. “Fire Season” earned a second place among high-school entries in the western division, which brought Gebauer not only prize money but the broadcast of her work on CSPAN’s networks in April. The video, along with the rest of this year’s winners and past winners, can be viewed at

As gleeful as some of us wildfire geeks are to see a young person share our concerns and obsessions with the wider world in such a skillful way, it’s clear that this student takes the challenge of the wildfire crisis seriously. “Our world is changing, and we need to change with it,” Gebauer concludes. “Wildland fire does not recognize jurisdictional boundaries. In an increasingly divided America, the National Cohesive Strategy stresses the importance of crossing jurisdictional, political, and cultural boundaries in order to prioritize the safety of our landscapes and our communities.”

It’s also clear to students like Linnea Gebauer that failure to change policy now will impact the future they inherit. May today’s leadership listen carefully to the young people who are pointing the way to a more sustainable tomorrow.

Michele Steinberg is director of the wildfire division at NFPA. Illustration: Michael Hoeweler