—Introduction, with an Introduction by Martin E. Alexander">

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Fire Ecology, 2014
Volume 10, Issue 3

The Ecological Role of Fire in Natural Conifer Forests of Western and Northern North AmericaIntroduction, with an Introduction by Martin E. Alexander
Authors: Herbert E. Wright, Jr and Miron L. Heinselman
Pages: 1-13
DOI: 10.4996/fireecology.1003001

     Forest fires have been the bane of forest managers, resource analysts, and the public ever since the timberlands of the Great Lakes area and the western mountains were opened for exploitation or designated for preservation. The psychological stage was set during the early years of commercial timber cutting, when escaped slash fires burned several towns to the ground, killed thousands of people, and destroyed the young regeneration and remnants of uncut forest on literally millions of acres. Whether the forest was to be cut for timber or set aside for preservation as a natural feature, it was assumed that fires were destructive and should be prevented at all costs. Laws were passed to require the disposal of slash by safe methods in timbered areas, but insufficient care was used and fires continued to escape.
    When the public forests were established in the early years of this century, one of the first actions was the creation of a system for the detection and suppression of fires. Public forests became dotted with fire towers, and over the years the lore and loneliness of the fireguard became legend.
    Fire-suppression methods changed as technology developed. The catastrophes common in the early years became less frequent, as fires were efficiently spotted and put under control. Routine air patrol replaced the fire tower. Helicopters are now used to deploy fire fighters, equipment, and supplies. New chemicals and tools have been developed to fight the flames, climax was visualized as a long-term equilibrium between the vegetation and a stable physical environment.

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