It is important to note that William Greeley, among other forest service cheifs of the time all fought fires in 1910. This really contextualizes why they were so adamant about aggressive fire suppression. The huge fires of 1910 were harrowing for many fire fighters and led to an unprecedented number of deaths from fire fighting, which justified many of the anti-fire sentiments at the time. This time period really prioritized natural resources, and protecting wood from fire was a primary goal of the fire suppression as well. I also found it interesting that Greeley was highly educated, and that the forefront of the forestry field took after many British standards of fire suppression. Greeley was integral to advancing the goal of prevention in forest fires. The Forest Service at the time did not promote light burning practices, and suppression was the primary philosophy.
Many fire policies following Greeley’s time as chief centered around funding methods to suppress fires. The CCC and other New Deal policies directly funded and provided the labor to complete arduous fire prevention. The prevention continued throughout the post World War 2 period due to the increase in infrastructure and technology, along with retired military vehicles to aid in fighting wildfires. Aggressive suppression continued until the Leopold Report of 1963 which identified fire has essential to forest ecology. This was important in paving the way for more modern ideas that we have today like prescribed fires and letting wildfires burn in a controlled manner to reduce fuel loads. Today, historical fire regimes are at odds with the built up fuel loads and mismanagement of the past century. By preventing fires we have primed ourselves for more megafires, which can completely destroy a forest rather than leaving behind old growth.
The major rationale changes have occurred due to shifting needs. The natural resource of the forest is no longer the number one priority, and we are better at taking in to account the health of the forest as a whole. Also there is better environmental science and forestry being done that isn’t biased through such an anthropocentric lens. The better methods of forest management were realized by more destructive fires and realizing the role fire played historically and how it has changed our forests for the worse.