The fires this time, and next
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): S. J. Pyne
Publication Year: 2001

Cataloging Information

  • biomass
  • climate change
  • disturbance
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • education
  • fire frequency
  • fire management
  • fire regimes
  • fire suppression
  • gases
  • hardwood forests
  • histories
  • human caused fires
  • land use
  • landscape ecology
  • lightning caused fires
  • Native Americans
  • old fields
  • pine forests
  • public information
  • slash
  • suppression
  • surface fires
  • urban habitats
  • US Forest Service
  • wildfires
  • wood
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 39472
Tall Timbers Record Number: 14148
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Fire File
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


From the text:'...So it was that fire became an object of public policy. That policy and the establishment that ran it were largely shaped during one dramatic year, 1910. The Great Fires that savaged the Northern Rockies, in particular,were lethal, costly, and, above all, influential. They traumatized the young U.S. Forest Service, imprinting themselves in institutional memory until the generation that suffered through them had passed from the scene. Their horror triggered (and skewed) a public and highly charged political debate over "light burning”—the "Indian way” of forest protection, as proponents called it, or "Paiute forestry” the name its critics preferred. The outcome established all-out fire suppression as the standard, and that policy survived until the late l960s when its full costs, ecological as well as economic, made it untenable. All the predictions of the earlier "light burning” advocates became sad truths: sickly biotas, forests fluffed with combustibles, and unexpected human tragedies associated with suppression efforts. Since then, the federal agencies have struggled to reinstate fire, with mixed and mostly marginal results. The Western American landscape is a legacy of that history. It does not have a fire problem:it has many fire problems. Some have technical solutions and are amenable to scientific research. Others, enmeshed in our affection for wilderness, must defer to cultural choices. So the mandala of the national narrative continues to turn... ...Reintroducing fire is complicated. The agencies like to simpIify the matter by calling fire a "tool,” but that is an oddly mixed analogy. A candle is a tool in the way an ax is. The kind of field fire set by early agriculturalists more closely resembles a domesticated species, say, a sheep dog or a draft ox. Controlled burning in quasi-wild lands is different still - a semi-captive process, like elephants trained to haul logs or grizzlies taught to dance. If we do resume our role as wild-land fire-managers, we must recognize that our control is delicate and vulnerable... ...As the global warming issue suggests, fire will force us to choose not only between social and biological values, but between competing ecological values. We may have to choose not simplify between driving cars and burning the woods, but between, say, preserving Karner Blue Butterflies and releasing greenhouse gases. There is no way to exempt ourselves as active agents: What we do not do will have as much impact as what we do...'

Online Link(s):
Pyne, S. J. 2001. The fires this time, and next. Science, v. 294, no. 5544, p. 1005-1006.