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Fight or Light? The History and Impact of the Big Fires of 1910

This article is from Issue Wildland Fire 2 - Vol. 13 No. 1.

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The historian in this study was interested in understanding the impact of the 1910 fires on fire policy and American society. He wanted to know why the wildfires that burned over those 2 days were so powerful. They influenced public opinion and fire policy for most of the next century. Their influence was felt even after it became clear that fire suppression was not the best policy. The fires of 1910 continue to influence Americans today, even if people are not aware of it. 

Welcome to the Wildland Fire 2 edition!

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"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
There are many different ways to discover new information. A historian is an individual who does research and writes about human events that happened in the past. The research and writings of historians provide important benefits to society. They tell stories from the past that help society to understand how people, groups of people, or organizations came to be as they are. History also helps society to learn from the mistakes and successes of the past. Often, historians collect information from many different places to tell a story. If possible, they interview people who were involved in the historic events. Human history can be told at many levels. You, as an individual, have your own history. You have a family history, and your community has a history. Your race has a history, and your country has a history. The history of just about anything can be studied. What is your favorite type of music? It has a history as well. The research you will read about in this article was conducted by a historian who was interested in the history of wildland fire in America.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Scientific Topics

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
In the early years of the 20th century, the Western United States was still being settled by Europeans. Forests were cleared for railroads, mining, agriculture, and the towns where people lived. Much more land, however, remained as wild forests. As more people moved near or into these wild forests, the question of how to manage wildfires became more important. Wildfires are large uncontrolled wildland fires that are started by lightning or by people’s careless actions. In the early 1900s, some people thought that purposefully setting and controlling small fires every few years was the best way to keep any wildfires from getting out of control. Other people felt that the best way to manage wildfires was to prevent them from starting. These people also felt that any fire that started should be put out as quickly as possible. In this article, you will learn about wildfires that burned over 2 days in 1910. You will learn about the effect these wildfires had on how society viewed wildfires throughout the 20th century. One hundred years later, the wildfires of 1910 still affect American society.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Human impact on natural resources