Escape Fire

Escape Fire

Nurses with gurney in ESCAPE FIRE, directed and produced by Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

Escape Fire

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Escape Fire (2012)

Also Known As: Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare

Opened: 10/05/2012 Limited

Playhouse 710/05/2012 - 10/11/20127 days
Clearview Chel...10/12/2012 - 10/18/20127 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook

Genre: Documentary

Rated: PG-13 for some thematic material.

What Is An Escape Fire?

  1. A swath of grassland or forest intentionally ignited in order to provide shelter from an oncoming blaze.
  2. An improvised, effective solution to a crisis that cannot be solved using traditional approaches.


ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time: how can we save our badly broken healthcare system?

American healthcare costs are rising so rapidly that they could reach $4.2 trillion annually, roughly 20% of our gross domestic product, within ten years. We spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs -- almost as much as the rest of the world combined. We pay more, yet our health outcomes are worse. About 65% of Americans are overweight and almost 75% of healthcare spending goes to preventable diseases that are the major causes of disability and death in our society.

It's not surprising that healthcare is at the top of many Americans' concerns and at the center of an intense political firestorm in our nation's Capitol. But the current battle over cost and access does not ultimately address the root of the problem: we have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system. The film examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo, a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care.

ESCAPE FIRE also presents attainable solutions. After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into our high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground. Filmmakers Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke interweave dramatic personal arcs of patients and physicians with the stories of leaders battling to transform healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the U.S. military. ESCAPE FIRE is about finding a way out of our current crisis. It's about saving the health of a nation.

About the Production

In the research phase for ESCAPE FIRE, directors Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke came across an influential speech delivered by Dr. Don Berwick years before he took office as the head of Medicare and Medicaid. The speech was published as a healthcare manifesto called Escape Fire: Lessons for the Future of Healthcare.

Dr. Berwick draws a parallel between the broken healthcare system and a forest fire that ignited in Mann Gulch, Montana in 1949. Just as the healthcare system lies perilously on the brink of combustion, the forest fire which seemed harmless at first was waiting to explode. A team of fifteen smokejumpers parachuted in to contain the fire, but soon they were running for their lives, racing to the top of a steep ridge. Their foreman, Wag Dodge, recognized that they would not make it.

With the fire barely two hundred yards behind him, he did a strange and marvelous thing. He invented a solution. His crew must have thought he had gone crazy as he took some matches out of his pocket, bent down, and set fire to the grass directly in front of him. The fire spread quickly uphill, and he stepped into the middle of the newly burnt area, calling for his crew to join him.

But nobody followed Wag Dodge. They ignored him, clinging to what they had been taught, and they ran right by the answer. The fire raged past Wag Dodge and overtook the crew, killing thirteen men and burning 3,200 acres. Dodge survived, nearly unharmed.

Dodge had invented what is now called an "escape fire," and soon after it became standard practice. As Berwick says in the film, "We're in Mann Gulch. Healthcare, it's in really bad trouble. The answer is among us. Can we please stop and think and make sense of the situation and get our way out of it?"