Wednesday, November 16, 2011

History of wildland fires

By Gary W. Mullins - BLM/National Interagency Fire Center
November 16, 2011

"Where do we start discussing wildland fire history-with the beginning of the Earth, with the first hominoid use of fire, which may have occurred well over a million years ago, or with the evolution of prescribed fire beginning in the 1930s in the United States? Or do we define prescribed fire in terms of the Australian Aborigine ancient "firestick" land management practices where fires were started continuously to cleanse the land...The earliest European settlers to North America noted indigenous peoples' use of fire for clearing land, hunting and gathering activities, and in warfare. The American Bison (buffalo) arrived on the eastern shores of what is now the United States about the time of the arrival of the Mayflower. This migration of bison has been attributed in some part to the opening of grazing areas by Native American practices of burning the land. Native American oral history is rich with stories about fire and how fire came to humans; their drawings depict the use of fire. William Bartrum, noted naturalist, during his travels in Florida in the 1700s, reported fires burning somewhere every day. While Native Americans had fire firmly rooted in their way of life, post-Columbian immigrants in the new world sought a new order which did not embrace fire as a natural process. Suppression became the call..."

Just another quote added to my files, seeing "stone walls" as Native American Fire Breaks on the Sacred Cultural Landscape of Turtle Island.


Anonymous said...

I have a bit of an issue with the line “post-Columbian immigrants in the new world sought a new order which did not embrace fire as a natural process. Suppression became the call..." The statement is true to a point, yet as a kid I recall it being a regular practice of farmers to burn off their fields each year. It was also common for homeowners to burn their leaves in the Fall rather than have them hauled off to the dump. In the 70s this all changed due to the Clean Air Act (which I support). We rarely saw wood ticks until the 80s and never had deer ticks until the mid 90s.The building boom of the past few decades has made it next to impossible to return to the old practices because the forest/home interface makes it dangerous. Large wild fire occur, and I fear most of New England has set itself up for a major disaster.

Tim MacSweeney said...

It's still a regular practice in the Blueberry Barrens of Maine. Every field (now sectioned off by dirt road fire breaks) is burned over every four years to encourage the berries and get rid of the weeds. I recall a stone row at the edge of a field, but 30 plus years ago I didn't give it a second thought. Type the word "burning" in the search this blog field at (or just click the link to it to your right) and you'll get alot of stuff on the subject.
Indian fires were more "low ground fires" as opposed to total conflagrations and crown fires like on the wildfires seen on the TV News...