[TEXT ARCHIVE WEB-PUBLISHED MARCH 2002.
ORIGINAL PRINT PUBLICATION DATE: FALL 1998.]
History of Fire
million years ago
atmosphere is so rich in oxygen 30 percent
that a world like today's would have been impossible. Fires
would not stop; everything burnable burned repeately, as
soon as it grew and was ignited.
million years ago
to changes in the interactions between animals, plants and
fire, the Earth's oxygen levels dropped to about 21 percent
of the atmosphere, as it is today. 15 to 5 million years
ago The world's grassland communities developed, with fire
a crucial component, leading to new forms of life including
the large grazing animals, and humans.
BC 1900 AD
the glaciers retreated, human-set fires joined lightning-set.
Studies of fire scars and even-aged stands of old timber
show consistent patterns of fire frequency.
settlers learned burning from the Indians, but a cultural
reaction against fire, starting in Europe in the 1800s,
was soon reflected here in controversy over fire.
H. H. Chapman studies the burning of southern pine by timber
growers to prepare seedbeds for longleaf pine and to prevent
pine from being taken over by hardwoods and brush. As a
result, he champions prescribed burning.
acres of natural forests burn, 3,000,000 in Idaho and Montana
alone, in the Big Blowup. 78 fatalities reported.
National Park Service is established and adopts strict fire
Forest Service standardizes a policy of intensive fire suppression.
Service Chief Lyle Watts encourages the experimental use
of prescribed burning.
the Bear" ads appear.
Harold Biswell of the University of California researches
the use of prescribed burning and almost loses his job because
the School of Forestry fears being associated with prescribed
Komarek of the private Tall Timbers Research Station in
Florida advocates prescribed fire worldwide, based on studies
made by the station.
L. Shiff's book, Fire and Water, shows that productivity
in southern pine forests was increased by periodic controlled
studies show that giant sequoias depend on fire to kill
the seedlings of competing tree species.
Park Service publishes new policies recognizing fire as
a natural phenomenon.
Service admits some fire is good in its bulletin Protecting
the Forests from Fire. Cook County Forest Preserves
are on record conducting regular controlled burns as part
of land management policy. However, all wildfires and vandal
fires are to be extinguished as soon as possible.
Department of Conservation incorporates controlled burns
as part of its land management policy.
Beach State Park begins controlled burns.
Dunes National Lakeshore incorporates prescribed fire as
part of its land management program.
of Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres are scorched by 248 wildfires
that are at first allowed to burn.
of the US Fire Policy Review Committee concludes that the
public did not understand fire terminology or policy and
advises that prescribed and natural fires be used more often
to reduce hazardous fuel build-up. 1996 DuPage and Cook
County Forest Preserve Districts impose a moratorium on
prescribed burning as a result of criticism in the press.
The DuPage moratorium is soon lifted.
paper in Science reports that the suppression of
wildfires led to the loss of a third of the plant species
in Wisconsin prairies over the past 50 years.
County FPD rescinds a moratorium on prescribed burning after
its Community Advisory Council votes 13 to 1 to resume the
process. Now prescribed burning is conducted by all county,
state, and federal conservation agencies in the Chicago