Four centuries of land use history were compared to fire regime characteristics along a use-intensity gradient. Changes in intensity and type of utilization varied directly with changes in fire regime characteristics near population centers, while remote areas showed little effect. Changes in fire frequency and fire-climate relationships during some periods suggest that humans augmented 'natural' fire associated with lightning ignitions. Our results show that human alterations in fire regime characteristics can be documented and, in some cases, can be distinguished from pre-existing conditions dominated by physical and biological processes that operate independently of human cultural effects. Results also support the view that pre-20th century human impacts on landscapes were localized and episodic, rather than regional and constant.