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Fire Science's American Century: A Hundred Years of Wildland Fire Research in the United States
9:00 AM - 9:30 AM
Tue Nov 28, 2017
Citron North

By the early 20th century, landscape fires were seen as a global problem in conservation. They burned settler communities, trashed frontier landscapes, and threatened to unhinge climates. To spare lands from fire and axe was a primary incentive for establishing forest reserves and parks. But fire itself had no disciplinary home. By accident it fell to forestry, whose central European origins regarded it as something to be studied only in order to be extinguished. Early American foresters considered fire protection their special contribution to international forestry. Gradually, under the aegis of the U.S. Forest Service the topic spread. The Cold War saw a major boost in the breadth of funding, methods, and scope. The environmental movement and a shift to fire management further expanded disciplines and institutions, among them fire ecology. Today, fire continues to hybridize with more disciplines. Fire-themed publications are expanding exponentially. Fire research has become a global project. But fire itself still lacks a disciplinary home. Its significance for the Anthropocene, however, creates an opportunity for it to become an informing theme in a narrative of global change.

Steve Pyne
Regents Professor, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

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