topic: Fire > Fire History
earth, born in fire, baptized by lightning, since before
life's beginning, has been and is a fire planet."
- fire ecologist E.V.
has always been a part of Oregon's forests. For as long
as trees have been growing here, lightning has been
a regular visitor to our summer skies. Historically,
lightning was the main cause of forest fires in most
areas, and it is still an important factor.
When the first humans arrived,
they brought more fire with them. Native Americans
used fire as a tool - to herd game, to stimulate the
growth of certain plants, to create clearings around
villages, and for many other reasons.
of Oregon's forests did not burn very often. Those closest
to the ocean only burned every few hundred years. Coast
Range fires often grew to an enormous size and burned
intensely, destroying most of the trees in their path.
The Tillamook burn of 1933 is one famous example, but
there were several larger and even more destructive
fires in the 1800s. Most recent fires in this part of
the state have been human-caused.
forests east of the Cascades and in southwestern Oregon
are a different story. Fire occurred more frequently,
thanks to a drier climate and more lightning. Many forests
in these areas burned every 25 years or so, and some
more often than that. However, fires in these forests
were generally much less severe, killing shrubs and
seedlings but leaving most of the larger trees. Older
ponderosa pine trees commonly survived many such fires
over their lifetimes - and they have the scars to prove