The thermal pulse: a history of wildland fire research
Document Type: Book Chapter
Author(s): S. J. Pyne
Editor(s): S. J. Pyne
Publication Year: 1982

Cataloging Information

  • agriculture
  • Canada
  • CCC - Civilian Conservation Corporation
  • chemistry
  • combustion
  • conservation
  • DOD - Department of Defense
  • Europe
  • fire control
  • fire damage protection
  • fire danger rating
  • fire equipment
  • fire management
  • fire protection
  • fire regimes
  • fire research
  • Florida
  • fluid mechanics
  • forest management
  • fuel management
  • Great Britain
  • heat
  • histories
  • Komarek, E.V., Sr.
  • land management
  • land use
  • light
  • lightning caused fires
  • logging
  • Mann Gulch Fire
  • methodology
  • natural resource legislation
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • NSF - National Science Foundation
  • OCD - Office of Civil Defense
  • physics
  • pine forests
  • Soviet Union
  • statistical analysis
  • Stoddard, H.L.
  • Tall Timbers Research Station
  • Tallahassee
  • thermodynamics
  • US Forest Service
  • Washington
  • water
  • wildfires
  • wildland fuels
  • World War II
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: July 26, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 43143
Tall Timbers Record Number: 18322
TTRS Location Status: Not in file
TTRS Call Number: Not in File
TTRS Abstract Status: Fair use, Okay, 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... ' In 1962, the same year in which OCD [Office of Civil Defense] convened the first of its annual conferences of fire research contractors, the Tall Timbers Research Station in Tallahassee, Florida, inaugurated the first of its annual fire ecology conferences. The object of the former was the physics of fire and the effects of its military use; the purpose of the latter was the biology of fire and the effects of its application in land management. The conference chairman for Tall Timbers, E. V. Komarek, expressed a general quandary. 'I have spent about half of my life influenced, taught, and educated against fire in nature,' he wrote, 'and then I have spent the other half of it using fire and trying to understand it.' While the Forest Service groped toward a definition of mass fire, Komarek proposed a definition of fire ecology. While the Forest Service was completing the last of the fire labs, Komarek extended acknowledgments to 'natural laboratories,' 'where most of the studies of fire ecology must be made.' While the Southern Lab worked painstakingly to make explicit the physical and meteorological circumstances under which prescribed fire would be ignited, Herbert Stoddard, a research associate at Tall Timbers, recommended that 'we*ve got to take calculated risks in this world, and I don*t think we can possibly ever use fire on a large scale and get the results we ought to unless we do take those calculated risks.' Within a year the Leopold Report was published; within two years, the Wilderness Act became law; and for two decades the defining problem of land use remained wilderness. The program of the Tall Timbers conferences was far better suited to answer these questions than was that developed by OCD. Once again administrative policy and research programs were to be retooled. When the Forest Service changed the title of Fire Control to the Division of Fire Management, and when it outlined its plans for reconstituting its objectives in conformity with land management and ecosystem concepts, it did so at a joint meeting with the Tall Timbers conference held at Missoula in 1974. ... By 1974 the main strands of the new era were coming together. At a joint convention in Missoula the Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference, the Intermountain Fire Research Council, and the Forest Service*s Fire and Land Management Symposium consolidated their new and shared interests. The Tall Timbers Station had been chartered in 1958, making it contemporaneous with the NAS [National Academy of Science] Committee on Fire Research and the great buildup of Forest Service fire research facilities and programs. By the mid-1970s, however, NSF and the reformed Forest Service had absorbed the station*s original fire research goals, and its influential conferences ceased. In 1974, too, the Forest Service established a Fire in Multiple-Use Management Research, Development, and Application Program (RD&A) at the Northern Lab. The goals of the program were to define the role of fire in forest and range ecosystems and to develop means by which fire management could be better assimilated into land management. Among a wide array of projects, it sponsored FIRELAMP, a complex computer model that could predict fire effects on various components of an ecosystem, and FIREBASE, a computerized retrieval system for information on fire. In 1976 the Service promoted a National Fire Effects Workshop 'as a first step in responding to the most recent changes in policies, laws, regulations, and initiatives.' Six Working groups began preparation of state-of-knowledge reports for the effects of fire on soil, air, water, flora, fauna, and fuels. The reports had the dual purpose of consolidating the published literature and defining priorities for future research.' ©1982 by Princeton University Press.

Pyne, S. J. 1982. The thermal pulse: a history of wildland fire research, in SJ Pyne ed., Fire in America: a cultural history of wildland and rural fire. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, p. 467-496.