Facing Fire Documentary

History

How did we get here?

The history of humanity's relationship with fire is as telling as it is cautionary. How we've worked with fire can inform our perspective and action with wildfire today.

If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you're going.

- Maya Angelou

Below are selected dates that help explain how our relationship with fire in North America developed. If you think there's an event or date that's missing please send a message.

WW II US government poster to encourage citizens not to ignite wildfires.
WW II US government poster to encourage citizens not to ignite wildfires.

Facing Fire History

1000
1000

Vegetation Evolves on Earth and with it Fire

Until the advent of vegetation wildfire didn’t exist. There was oxygen and elements that provided fuel but not actual vegetation. Hard to believe but there was a time without wildfire. Once vegetation existed wildfire helped plants to evolve. Plants in turn used fire to renew, replace and regenerate though co-evolution.
1825
1825

Miramichi Fire

Miramichi Fire

The Miramichi fire announces the wave of settlement fires that will cross North America.

1871
1871

Great Lakes and US-Canada Border

Great Lakes and US-Canada Border

Major conflagrations around the Great Lakes and along the US-Canada border.

 

1910
1910

The Big Blow Up

The Big Blow Up

The Big Blow Up was a ” wildfire in the western United States that burned three million acres (4,700 sq mi; 12,100 km2) in North Idaho and Western Montana, with extensions into Eastern Washington and Southeast British Columbia.”

The event galvanized US fire policy with the intent to “never have another fire like this on our watch ever again.”

 

Accessed September 19th 2019 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_1910

1930
1930

Canadian Forest Service Loses Land Base

Canadian Forest Service Loses Land Base

Canadian Forest Service loses land base and becomes a research organization

“Until 1930, the federal government retained authority over the forests of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and the 64 km-wide railway belt along the route of the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia. Today, provincial and territorial governments are responsible for about 90 per cent of the non-reserved commercial forest land, the federal government controls roughly 2 per cent (this includes First Nations reserves, military bases and national parks), and private owners oversee the remaining 8 per cent.”

Accessed September 24th 2019 https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/forestry

 

1935
1935

10 am Policy Adopted by US Forest Service

10 am Policy Adopted by US Forest Service

“In 1935, the Forest Service established the so-called 10 a.m. policy, which decreed that every fire should be suppressed by 10 a.m. the day following its initial report. Other federal land management agencies quickly followed suit and joined the campaign to eliminate fire from the landscape. Fire suppression efforts were aided by the development of new technologies, such as airplanes, smokejumpers, and fire suppression chemicals. With such tools, fires could be fought anywhere—and were.”

 

Accessed September 20th 2019 Forest History

1943
1943

Wildfire associated with the Axis WW II

Wildfire associated with the Axis WW II

During WWII the US Forest Service and other US Governmental Departments developed WWII propaganda posters likening wildfires to the Axis. These posters helped further demonize wildfire.

1944
1944

Smokey Bear first poster appearance

Smokey Bear first poster appearance

Smokey Bear appears as the advertising icon created by the US Forest Service. “In the Wildfire Prevention Campaign, which is the longest-running public service announcement campaign in United States history, the Ad Council, the United States Forest Service (USFS), and the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), in partnership with creative agency FCB, employ Smokey Bear to educate the public about the dangers of unplanned human-caused wildfires.”

Accessed September 19th 2019 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smokey_Bear

1945
1945

Militarization of Wildfire Fighting Post WWII

Militarization of Wildfire Fighting Post WWII

After WWII wildfire fighting was militarized. Command structures and surplus equipment from the war were adopted in North America. The “fighting fire” mentality was reinforced leading to a mindset of being able to “win the war” with fire.

1962
1962

Revolution in US Fire Policy to restore fire in the landscape

Revolution in US Fire Policy to restore fire in the landscape

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Manisha Lath Gupta
Farmer/Educator/Innovator - Haryana, India