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Publication Information

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Title: Fire on the early western landscape: An annotated record of wildland fires 1776-1900

Author: Gruell, George E.;

Date: 1985

Source: Northwest Science. 59(2): 97-107.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)


Scientific and historical literature was searched for documented accounts of early fires in the '"interior West" - Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and eastern Oregon. One hundred and forty-five accounts of fires by 44 observers were found. The majority of accounts described fires in progress. A smaller proportion referred to burned areas that were encountered; a few simply described regional fire occurrence based on the journalists' observations. Indians were identified as the primary ignition source over wide areas at lower and middle elevations. Some journalists noted that fire enhanced grasses and inhibited growth of woody plants. The historical record, and fire history based on analysis of fire scars demonstrate that fire was a major perturbation in the interior West. Such knowledge can help resource managers understand subsequent vegetative changes, and can enable them to use prescribed fires intelligently.

Keywords: wildland fires, history, management

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Gruell, George E. 1985. Fire on the early western landscape: An annotated record of wildland fires 1776-1900. Northwest Science. 59(2): 97-107.


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