NHC Home TeacherServe Nature Transformed The Use of the Land Essay:

History with Fire in Its Eye: An Introduction to Fire in America
Stephen J. Pyne, Arizona State University
©National Humanities Center

Illustration Credits
Repository/ID Information
Mining town fire, Cripple Creek, Colorado, April 29, 1896; written on back of photoprint: "Blowing up of the Denver house" Library of Congress: History of the American West, 1860-1920: Photographs from the Collection of the Denver Public Library
Burning slash, Kitsumkalum Valley, British Columbia, Canada, 1914 (cropped) Image Courtesy of British Columbia Archives
Detail of NA-04368
Prairie fire near Stettler, Alberta, Canada, April 1908 Glenbow Museum, Art Gallery, Library and Archives; NA-1199-1
Fighting prairie fire at Ghost Pine Creek near Elnora, Alberta, Canada, spring 1906 Glenbow Museum, Art Gallery, Library and Archives; NA-1502-1
Forest fire at Yellowhead Pass, Alberta, Canada, ca. 1913 Glenbow Museum, Art Gallery, Library and Archives; NA-2896-11
Town destroyed by forest fire. Title: "Bush fire on Mount Fernie, British Columbia, Canada, August 1, 1908. Building at right destroyed by fire." Glenbow Museum, Art Gallery, Library and Archives; NA-2282-4
Cooking outside the cottage, Saint Marks, Florida, 190- Florida State Archives; NO39991
Lumberyard fire, Anoka, Minnesota, 1884 Minnesota Historical Society; QE2a p3
City fire, Jacksonville, Florida, May 3, 1901. Photo title: "City going up in smoke." Florida State Archives; Rc07423
Forest fire in undefined location in the U.S. Southwest, January 1999 Wildlandfire.com
Cover: Fire Behavior Associated with the 1994 South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain, Colorado. United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Research Paper MRS-RP-9, September 1998 U.S. Forest Service
Outlet Fire, North Rim of the Grand Canyon; photo taken from the South Rim at Mather Point on May 10, 2000, at roughly 6 pm U.S. National Park Service
Outlet Fire, North Rim of the Grand Canyon; area near Pt. Imperial where heavy fuels burned with high intensity; photo taken on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park on June 7, 2000 U.S. National Park Service
Satellite image of the plume of the Cerro Grande fire, Bandelier National Monument, near Los Alamos, New Mexico, May 10, 2000 Operational Significant Event Imagery, Satellite Services Division, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Harvey, George. "Spring: Burning Fallen Trees in a Girdled Clearing," from Harvey's Scenes of the Primitive Forest of America, at the Four Periods of the Year, Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter, Engraved from His Original Paintings, Accompanied with Descriptive Letter-Press. London: Published by George Harvey and Messrs. Ackermann, 1841 Paul Mellon Collection, The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia Library
Charles S. Sargent, Map of the United States showing the proportion of woodland within the settled area burned during the census year [1880], compiled by C. S. Sargent, special agent, 1884 In U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Census Office, Report on the Forests of North America (Exclusive of Mexico), 1884, by Charles S. Sargent, Arnold Professor of Arboriculture in Harvard College, Special Agent Tenth Census (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office), between pages 490 and 491. Reprint: Norman Ross, 1991.
Lightning over Norman, Oklahoma, n.d. Photograph by Stephen Hodanish, Senior Meteorologist, Colorado Lightning Resource Center, National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Kindling fire, Assiniboin Indian, n.d., in Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, v. 18, Assiniboin, 1926. Description by Curtis: "The fire-drill is unknown to the oldest Assiniboin traditionists, but striking fire from flint was apparently an aboriginal method." Photo Collection: Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian: Photographic Images, in American Memory from the Library of Congress
Dance to restore an eclipsed moon, Kwakiutl Indians (Qagyuhl), Pacific Northwest, n.d.; in Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, v. 10: Qagyuhl, 1915. Description by Curtis: "It is thought than an eclipse is the result of an attempt of some creature in the sky to swallow the luminary. In order to compel the monster to disgorge it, the people dance round a smoldering fire of old clothing and hair, the stench of which, rising to his nostrils, is expected to cause him to sneeze and disgorge the moon." Photo Collection: Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian: Photographic Images, in American Memory from the Library of Congress
Annual Cajun-tradition Christmas Eve bonfires, Louisiana, Dec. 24, 2001; from the site: "A Cajun tradition for generations, over 100 bonfires are built like magnificent runway landing lights along the bank of the Mississippi River in Lutcher, Gramercy, and Reserve, Louisiana. They are all lit on Christmas Eve to guide 'Papa Noel' and his reindeer south, on into the houses of anticipation in bayou country." Courtesy Bob Bertaut Sr., www.650motorcycles.com
Edward Watts clearing land, Hubbard County, Minnesota, USA, 1913 Minnesota Historical Society
SA4.1 r25
An industrial scene, Ensley, Alabama, February 1937 U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Historical Photos. O1di1327 / CD8174-327. Photo by Arthur Rothstein.
Longleaf pine forest, Florida, 1995, with a dense hardwood midstory. By 1999 the results of hardwood reduction are apparent with an open midstory and longleaf pine clearly visible. The groundcover in each photo is a mixture of woody and herbaceous vegetation. The Longleaf Pine Restoration Project, Eglin Air Force Base, Niceville, Florida; The Nature Conservancy
Suburban housing sprawl; central area, New Jersey; housing development of agricultural land; no date Landslides Aerial Photography;
photograph by Alex S. MacLean.
# 18-V-7307.01
Firefighter setting prescribed burn on campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz, July 1997. Caption: "CDF training officer Mike Gagarin cut a swath of fire across the meadow. At times, the flames reached 12 feet in the air." More info. Currents Online, publication of the University of California, Santa Cruz
Wheat stubble burning, Walla Walla, Washington, July 1941. Title: "Because of above-normal rainfall this season, the wheat developed more straw, and the fire hazard both before harvest and in the stubble was great." Library of Congress
Spraying fertilizer, California (near Blythe), June 1972 National Archives / Environmental Protection Agency
Pine burned in 1998 Mexico fires that illustrates the "three great fires of Earth." The bole has been split open by lightning (the kindling factor for natural fire); the interior is infected with fungi, most likely the product of acute air pollution (a consequence of industrial fire, as the forest lies along the flanks of the Valley of Mexico); and the tree itself has been burned because of a human-ignited wildfire, i.e., anthropogenic fire.Courtesy Stephen J. Pyne. Photograph by Stephen J. Pyne.
Yellowstone National Park, Norris area, after the 1988 fires Photograph ŠJeff Henry/Roche Jaune Pictures, Inc. Digital image courtesy Alliance for the Wild Rockies.
The Radio Fire, Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, Arizona, June 1977 Northern Arizona University.
# NAU.PH.2001.10.14. Photograph by Ron Talbot.
Prescribed burn, Lake Okeechobee, Florida, area just north of Indian Prairie canal, January 2001. South Florida Water Management District, West Palm Beach, Florida
Central African Republic, 1987. "Hunters set fire to forest area to drive out a species of rodent which will be killed for comestible use. Bush fires are organized jointly by herdsmen and hunters at the right time of the year so that both can benefit from the results—herdsmen from the creation of pasture land and hunters from animal food." Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. #14185. Photograph by R. Faidutti.
Campsite, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, May 1972. Photo description: "Camping in the Maze, a remote and rugged region in the heart of the Canyonlands. Because it seldom rains, tents are not necessary. firewood is dry and plentiful. Ekker Butte rises in the background." National Archives / Environmental Protection Agency
Homecoming bonfire/pep rally, Philo High School, Franklin Local School District, Duncan Falls, Ohio, 2001 Courtesy of student depicted in the photo, and of the student's parent, and of the Franklin Local School District
Smoke from Indonesian fires (white) and smog (green/brown), 1997 Operational Significant Event Imagery, Satellite Services Division, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Illustration from Peter Pernin, The Great Peshtigo Fire: An Eyewitness Account, Madison, Wis.: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1971 (reprint of 1874 ed.). Illustration captioned "People fleeing down Oconto Avenue toward the protection of the river." Artist: Mel Kishner. Wisconsin Electronic Reader and the State Historical Society of Wisconsin
John Wesley Powell, map of Utah, indicating burned areas, 1878, detail; in Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States, 1878 Digital image courtesy Stephen J. Pyne
Forest destroyed by the hurricane-force winds and flames of the Big Blowup of 1910, Idaho U.S. Forest Service. Digital image courtesy The Missoulian, Missoula, Montana.
Fire, Clark County ["Clarks" County in National Archives record], Washington, December 1, 1936 National Archives / U.S. Forest Service
Smog layer over upstate New York, October 21, 2000; photographed by astronauts on the Space Shuttle. From site description: "The layer of atmospheric pollution layer is capped by an atmospheric inversion, which is marked by the layer of clouds at the top of the photograph." Earth Science and Image Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center, NASA. STS092-713-32.JPG
VE Record ID 6626
Mission: STS092: Roll 713, Frame 32.
Dr. Stephen J. Pyne, 1991 Courtesy of Johann G. Goldammer

Photographs that appear only in appended materials

Illustration Credits
Repository/ID Information
Forest fire fighter. Para-fireman. Description: "This parachutist fights timber fires for the U.S. Forest Service. Much of his equipment is similar to that used at the battlefronts, since he encounters many of the same perils." U.S. Forest Service. Library of Congress: LC-USE6-D-009239.
[Same group description as photograph above] U.S. Forest Service. Library of Congress: LC-USE6-D-009240.
Mann Gulch [Montana] two weeks after the 1949 fire; dashed line marks smokejumpers' route in their attempt to outrun the fire U.S. Forest Service; from the USFS report (1993) on the Mann Gulch Fire
Ray Rubio (RAC) practice jump, Fort Bayard, Silver City, New Mexico. Taken on Silver City detail during early 2001 fire season. National Smokejumper Association. Photograph by Charles Wetzel.
Rookie smokejumpers. Missoula, Montana, 1999. National Smokejumper Association
Cross at site where the body of smokejumper Stanley Reba was found after the Mann Gulch fire of 1949, Montana; photograph taken in 1969 U.S. Forest Service. Photograph by Philip G. Schlamp. Digital image from the U.S. Forest History Society.
Shaded relief map of the United States (cropped to western states) Ray Sterner, Color Landform Atlas of the United States
Entrance to mine shaft on Placer Creek where Ed Pulaski led his men during the Big Blowup of 1910, Idaho U.S. Forest Service. Digital image from The Missoulian, Missoula, Montana.
CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) enrollees enroute to fire, California, 1934 National Agricultural Library
Hash Rock Fire, Prineville, Oregon, August 1, 2000 U.S. Forest Service; accessed through the National Interagency Fire Center Image Portal. Photograph by Tom Inaci: # NI002488
North Rim Longshots, Grand Canyon, 1981; Steve Pyne at far left Courtesy Stephen J. Pyne
Tower Fire, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, September 2001 National Park Service
Wildland fighters working on the Tower Fire, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, September 2001 National Park Service
Grand Canyon, Arizona, U.S.A. November 1985. From NASA/JSC. "The eastern end of the deeply incised Grand Canyon of northwestern Arizona is visible in the upper third of this low-oblique, southwestern-looking photograph. [Note: cropped photo has been rotated due north in this essay.] As the Colorado River makes a great turn to the north, the northwest-flowing Little Colorado River joins it from the east; north of this confluence is Marble Canyon. The forested, elevated land north of the big bend in the Colorado River is the Kaibab Plateau, on whose southern tip is the North Rim, an outstanding observation point for viewing the Grand Canyon. Echo Cliffs Range appears as a dramatic change in topography near the lower left corner of the photograph, and southwest of this a small part of the Painted Desert is discernible. The darker colors are areas on the plateaus north and south of the Grand Canyon where vegetation is more dense." Earth from Space: Johnson Space Center (NASA)
Steve Pyne, North Rim "longshot" firefighter, western rim of the Grand Canyon, early 1970s Courtesy Stephen Pyne. Photograph by Joe Alston.
Title: "Sun shining through the dark smoke coming from the fire." BLM Medford District, Oregon, specific location unknown, March 1997 U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Photograph by Terry Tuttle.

Return to essay!

TeacherServe Home Page
National Humanities Center
7 Alexander Drive, P.O. Box 12256
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709
Phone: (919) 549-0661   Fax: (919) 990-8535
Revised: June 2002