History of Fire

From The National Humanities Center

History with Fire in Its Eye: An Introduction to Fire in America

For the 1880 census, Charles Sargent mapped forest fires. Fire was nearly everywhere, some places more vigorously than others. The amount of burning was, by today's standards, staggering.

C.S. Sargent, map depicting the proportion of U.S. woodland burned in 1880 (1884)

A developing nation, still primarily agricultural, the United States had a fire-flushed landscape not unlike those of Brazil and Indonesia in more recent decades.

By the end of the 20th century, that scene had changed almost beyond recognition. Everywhere fire's domain was shrinking. Flame had vanished from houses and fields. Its primary habitats were the public lands of the West and those still-rural scenes of the forested South.

The problem with fires became one of maldistribution—too much of the wrong kind of fire, not enough of the right kind.

By the end of the 20th century, that scene had changed almost beyond recognition. Everywhere fire's domain was shrinking. Flame had vanished from houses and fields. Its primary habitats were the public lands of the West and those still-rural scenes of the forested South.

Source: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/nattrans/ntuseland/essays/fire.htm