Did you know? … Fire Facts

I have been reading some fascinating books, which I highly recommend, if you are interested in fire behavior, USFS fire flighting techniques, and their origins. Here are some interesting facts from a couple of these books.

Did you know that on August 20, 1886, Civil War General Phil Sheridan started the federal government’s role in firefighting by ordering the Calvary in to fight a wildfire in the world’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872? Sheridan ordered Captain Moses Harris into the park to fight the fires that had been raging for months. The strategies Capt. Harris employed are still used today. (“Scorched Earth: How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America” by Rocky Barker, pp. 1, 4.)

This book is an excellent history of the formation of the USFS, national parks, and the historical political background of the battle for conservation, fire suppression, and fire use practices. It is an easy read and provides original sources for information dating back to 1872.

Did you know that IC Ellreese Daniels, of the Thirtymile Fire in July of 2001 was sentenced yesterday, after being the first IC in history to be criminally charged for the deaths of four firefighters that got caught in an embankment, deploying their fire shelters in this fire? After seven years, he pled to two counts of lying during the investigation, and the four manslaughter charges were dismissed. (“Thirtymile Fire” by John Maclean; http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/6901)

Both books are fascinating reading, and will help us to understand how wildland fires are fought and why certain decisions are made. “Thirtymile Fire,” which I have finished, is a great read for firefighter and layperson alike. Five years of investigation, interviews, and pouring over thousands of documents regarding this incident went into the reporting of this catastrophe. Mr. Maclean’s biases, if any, are well hidden by the factual reporting he does, and yet, it is written as a story, that captivates the reader from beginning to end.

Did you know that current USFS fire policies mandate fighting man-made fires like the Indians fire and letting nature-cause fires like the Basin Fire burn, other than structure and personnel protection? (I’ll have to find the cite for that, as I cannot find it, at the moment.)

Did you know that the IC of the Basin Complex fire, Mike Dietrich, lost five of his own in a burn-over in the Esperanza Fire in So. Cal in 2006? (http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_protection/fire_protection_memorial_esperanza.php)

Many of us, myself included, questioned the decisions made in the management of the Basin Complex Fire. It behooves us to understand the history behind these decisions, and why they are made, before we can hope to understand and challenge them. I, for one, am educating myself, and offering others the opportunity to do the same.