Creating a Safer Environment

The men of Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew that were lost in the Yarnell Hill Fire of 2013.
Arizona State Parks. 2020. About the Hotshot Crew: Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshots Crew.

The video, America Burning: The Yarnell Hill Tragedy and the Nation’s Wildfire Crisis, describes the tragic incident of 19 firefighters perishing in a wildland fire outside of their hometown. Many of the fire managers that spoke about this incident described how wildland fire is becoming more dangerous for numerous reasons. Such as, urban sprawl, the changing climate, and the fact that fires are burning faster and hotter than we’ve seen before (Weather Films, 2013). The Yarnell Hill fire is just an example of how fires are becoming even more unpredictable and dangerous to firefighters than ever before. To help improve the safety of our firefighters and communities congress initiated the Flame Act. The Flame Act of 2009 created a cohesive wildland fire management strategy to try and create more resilient landscapes, fire adapted communities, and safe and effective wildfire response for fire fighters (Forest Service, 2018).

Fire season is now 70 days longer than it was in the 80’s and we’re losing more homes, infrastructures, critical habitat and people (Forest Service, 2018). Urban sprawl is a growing issue, wildland firefighters are not to trained to deal with burning structures. In fact, they are taught to never go near or deal with burning structures. Homes and infrastructure pose many more threats to wildland firefighters. The cohesive wildland fire management strategy is an umbrella concept that asks all fire agencies and communities to work together to create these safer environments for everyone. The strategy needs community support to pre-treat large areas to build lower fire risk (Forest Service, 2018).

Fire managers are also working to create safer environments within firefighting by using natural and already existing fire breaks. The strategy was used on the Cow Fire of 2019. Managers of this larger fire used a strategy called “boxing”, where they utilize fire breaks like past burn scars and large forest service roads as control lines. This is managing the forest and fire rather than battling fire itself (U.S. Forest Service, 2019). This alleviates stress on fire handcrews to construct large fire breaks by hand. Fire crew’s thin edges of roads and create backburns that burn fuel towards the wildfire leaving nothing for it to continue to burn with. This is helping create safer environments for all our firefights and communities.


Forest Service. 2018. Cohesive Strategy Stakeholders Perspectives.

Forest Service. 2019. Cow Fire: Proactive Fire Management in Action.

Weather Films. 2013. America Burning: The Yarnell Hill Tragedy and the Nation’s Wildfire Crisis


Change in Fire Policy

Fire in the 1900’s was viewed as a threat to working men and businessmen. Fire destroyed valuable timber that was seen as only a profit, fire had to be controlled and put out right away. Wildfire was thought of as something that man could always control. However, the way we think about wildland fire has vastly changed in a century. Today we understand the essential role of wildland fire in your forested ecosystems and value forested areas for more than just timber.

In the 1900’s people were focused on timber, mining, and railroad construction throughout forested areas. Government authorities viewed forests as money, the faster you could remove trees for lumber or railways the better. Towns were being developed along railroads and because of the need for more men to work in the timber and mining industry. Fire was a threat to the timber industry and had to be put out right away. There was a rush to destroy fire because it endangered valuable timber and towns. The 1910 burn that spread over 3 million acres of forested land left little behind and wreaked havoc on the timber industry. This fire scared governments and stricter polices were created. A 10 AM policy was put into action in 1935, that instructed firefighters to put fires out by 10 AM the next day, if that couldn’t be accomplished than it should be out by 10 AM the following day.

A photo taken in 1910 after the Big Burn went through Wallace, Idaho.
PG 8, Barnard-Stockbridge Collection, University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives,

Not only has fire polices changed since the 1900’s but the way we view wildland fire has also changed. We now understand the importance of fire to forested ecosystems and even introduce it to areas. Government agencies see more to forests than just valuable timber. Government policies work to preserve forests and create working forests. Working forests are those that can create profit and protect important ecosystems together. Wildfire management is still changing today, agencies are working closer with state and private land owners to introduce prescribed fire to more areas to help create healthier forests.


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