Episode 02: The Big Burn

In 1910, a wildfire the size of Connecticut engulfed parts of Montana, Idaho and Washington. Ed Pulaski and his crew were among the many people trapped by the enormous blaze. The Big Burn, as it came to be known, helped propel a culture of fire suppression that still persists in many forms. What does that massive fire mean for the way our society deals with the wildfires of today?

  • Jim See is the president of the Pulaski Project in Wallace, Idaho.
  • Steve Pyne is a fire historian, and emeritus professor at Arizona State University. 
  • Andrew Larson is a forest ecologist, professor at the University of Montana, and director of the Wilderness Institute.


Justin Angle Previously on Fireline:

[News story clip]: “Devastation and death. 15 killed in this area alone.”

[Lily Clarke]:Right now an oak tree is going up in flames. It’s beautiful…”

[John Maclean]: You talk to the people who have to do the job. And they can tell you a lot about what’s really going on.”

[Lily Clarke]:Fire in itself is not an issue. It is only an issue when it begins to threaten human values.”

[Governor Gavin Newsom]: “This is a climate damn emergency. This is real.”

[Lily Clarke]: “If that fire does go out of control, if that one ember does travel into a community and burns them down, you will be given direct responsibility.”

[John Maclean]: “Fire is not some strange, foreign creature. It is part of the soul of man.”

Support for this program comes from Berkshire Hathaway’s Homeservices Montana Properties, First Security Bank, Blackfoot Communications, and A New Angle podcast.

Justin Angle Our producer, Victor Yvellez, met Jim See at a trailhead just outside Wallace, a small town at the bottom of the Idaho panhandle. Jim’s 72 years old. White hair, white beard. He’s wielding a long stick to help him along the two-mile trail. 

[Victor Yvellez]: “That’s a nice walking stick.”

[Jim See]: “Yeah, I got a number of these. My wife was born in Mississippi, so she has extended family down there. So I always bring back these sticks. This one came from Wall Doxie, Mississippi.”

Justin Angle The area’s relatively off the beaten path, so signs have been strategically placed around town to help drivers find one of its main attractions: the Pulaski Tunnel Trail.

[Jim See]:Here we have a sign in sheet and we ask people to sign in. And so we kind of get an idea. About two thirds of the people sign in. They come from all over the place. Here’s one from Texas. Here’s one from New Nevada. San Diego, California. Spokane, Boise, Wallace. Toledo, Ohio. So we get people from everywhere.”

Justin Angle So the trail’s a bit of a destination. And that’s because of the work of a small, passionate team led by Jim. In the distance, up a lush, green hillside, there’s a mineshaft. That hole in the ground marks one, single moment over a century ago, in the midst of one of the biggest wildfires the country’s ever dealt with. That moment and that burn shaped how we’ve treated wildfires ever since.

[Jim See]: “We knew that this was an important trail not only for Wallace, but also for Idaho and for the region and for the nation.”

Justin Angle But rewind about 25 years, to the first time Jim came up here…. And there wasn’t much of a trail at all. Back then, hardly anybody knew how to get to the mine. But Jim’s neighbor was in the know, and Jim tagged along for an adventure on an overgrown path.

[Jim See]:You almost had to crawl on the trail to get up to the mine, which was two miles away.”

Justin Angle These days, the trail up to that mine is very much renovated — no crawling required. But on that first first trip up here, Jim heard about a tunnel, a raging fire, and one man who fought it. As that story sunk in over the years to come… it changed the course of his life. 

[Jim See]: “So I thought, Geez this thing needs to be saved.”

Justin Angle And right where all that happened is where Victor and Jim are heading today. 

[Victor Yvellez]: “Let’s just start walking in and talk and walk and we’ll stop it when we stop and yeah.”

Justin Angle I’m Justin Angle, and this is Fireline: a series about what wildfire means for the West, our planet, and our way of life.

Just about every compelling plot has an inciting incident — a moment that pushes the protagonist out of the comfort zone and sets things into action. The trail that Victor and Jim are hiking commemorates the catalyst that shaped how we as a country dealt with wildfires for a century. That historical moment helped spawn the technologies and science we use to battle fire, and the army of firefighters that work to put it out. It left a very particular image of fire — as a beast to be tamed — lodged in our national psyche. It was the inciting incident of the fiery drama that’s still playing out all over the U.S.

Why have we waged a century-long war on wildfires? And what’s that war meant for the explosive fires we see today? One place to tell that story starts on this trail, with a man named Ed Pulaski.

This is episode two: The Big Burn.

As Victor and historic trail aficionado, Jim See, hike, Jim stops to describe just about every trail feature they come across.

[Jim See]: “Basically, what we have here is what’s called a Mooseman bridge.”

Justin Angle Jim’s writing a book about this trail’s namesake: Ed Pulaski.

[Jim See]: “Ed Pulaski was a Pioneer Forest ranger who joined the Forest Service in 1908.”

Justin Angle So we have two main characters here: Jim See the present-day history buff, and Ed Pulaski, the forest ranger back in the early 1900s. Jim is fascinated by the era in which Ed lived, back when it wasn’t the greenery that drew people here; it was the stuff in the ground: gold, silver, and other metals.

[Historic song]: “With your kind attention a song I will trill, All ye who must toil with the pick and the drill…”

Justin Angle And that’s why Ed came to Wallace.

[Jim See]: “And Ed was not your typical Forest Service person who rangers were mostly young college graduates out of Yale University. Ed was a 40 year old who had worked in the mines,

[Historic song]: “…Down, down, down…”

[Jim See]: He came out to northern Idaho for the great gold rush…”

Justin Angle That gold rush didn’t pan out for Ed. As miners like Ed and other settlers spread through the West, wildfires that had been around for millennia suddenly became a problem. The Forest Service was still young and didn’t quite know how to deal with all those burns. And by 1910 – that’s the key year here – Ed was in charge of a crew of about 45 firefighters. That summer had been dry and hot. Hundreds of fires sprouted across the Northwest. And then:

[Jim See]: “On August 20th, 1910, a palouser, a wind that came out of the Palouse area, blew all those little fires into one big fire storm and the wind got as high as 70 miles an hour and blew those all together and and caught all these firefighters who were out fighting the smaller fires into this huge, big fire.”

The 1910 fire was one of the biggest fires in United States history. It burned down and blew down about three million acres in Idaho, parts of Washington and parts of Montana. Basically, it was, it was a fire storm.” 

Justin Angle Jim actually hired sound engineers to create this soundscape. It’s difficult to imagine how a fire the size of Connecticut would have looked or felt or sounded on the ground. So Jim wanted to make it tangible.

After the fire, Ed went on to write about his experience. For the most part, that’s the account we’re relying on here. 

[Jim See]: “There is fire everywhere. All the trees are on fire. Branches are dropping, they’re on fire. The brush all around is on fire. It’s just fire everywhere and there’s no place to go.” 

Justin Angle But Ed was a quick thinker. He’d built trails in the area, and he knew where they might find safety. 

[Jim See]: “Pulaski and his crew are looking for a place to hide, some place to get out     of this. And Pulaski knows of these adits, these tunnel portals so that he can get people in it. So he came ahead and found this the Nicholson mine — ”

Justin Angle It was an abandoned tunnel from an old mine.

[Jim See]: “ — and went back and got his crew and got two horses into that tunnel. It was big enough to handle them all. It’s very difficult to realize how hot, how terrifying must have been. You know, it must have felt like you were in, you were in hell.”

Justin Angle Once the crew got inside the tunnel, they still weren’t safe. As flames licked the entrance to the mine, Ed drowned them out with a blanket, scalding himself terribly in the process. He ordered his men to lie down in a small puddle of water to escape the smoke and heat. I imagine it must have been hard to find any hope they’d survive in there. Some of the men thought they’d be better off risking it outside. 

[Jim See]: “They kind of approached Pulaski and wanted to get out of there. They’d rather die out in the fire than they’d die inside the tunnel while Polaski pulled his gun and said the next one to try to leave, I will shoot. You know, he knew that going out was hopeless.”

Justin Angle No one else tried to leave after Pulaski pulled his pistol. The blazing heat eventually sucked the air out of the tunnel. Pulaski and some of the men passed out. The next morning, one of the men saw Pulaski, still unconscious on the ground.  The next morning, when they came to, one of his men saw Pulaski, still unconscious on the ground. He told the other firefighters that the boss was dead. But Pulaski stirred and responded with the now legendary words: “Like hell he is.”

[Jim See]: “Five men actually died in the tunnel, about thirty eight or so, we don’t know the exact number, were able to survive.” 

Justin Angle Pulaski saved most of their lives. 

Historians and scholars have given the monster burn that trapped Ed’s crew in that tunnel lots of names. But for our purposes, let’s just call it The Big Burn.

Victor and Jim reached the end of the trip. After the fire, this spot would have been blackened and charred. But now, it’s green and vibrant. There’s interpretive signs and people everywhere. 

[Jim See]: “Hello! Did you guys sign in?…” 

Justin Angle Trees have been cut down as seats for hikers.  It feels far removed from what Pulaski went through in that mine.

[Jim See]: “Well, we’re at the Overlook at a rock wall that overlooks the Pulaski Tunnel and basically the tunnel is down of across the creek and it’s fairly steep going down there, so…”

Justin Angle Today, the mine itself is caged off from the world. No one can go inside. Instead, there’s an overlook. About 50 yards down you can stare at the metal bars where Pulaski and his men scrambled for their lives. Here’s Jim reading from one of those interpretive signs.

[Jim See]: “And then we took a quote from Ed Polaski. They died as truly in the service of their country as did those on the Flanders poppy covered fields. Ed is referring to the poem about the Flanders fields where a number of Americans died during World War One, gave their lives for this for for our country.”

Justin Angle Pulaski has become a legend for more than just his time in that hot, smokey mine. That name – Pulaski  – is now a term you’ll hear thrown around all day at any fire camp. It’s a tool — most firefighters’ weapon of choice when they’re out in the field. 

[Jim See]: “Pulaski himself perfected it in 2013. That was after the 1910 fire. Yeah. What’d I say, 2000? Oh, yeah, 1913.”

Justin Angle It’s two-sided: one end looks like an axe, for chopping, the other like a hoe, something you could till your garden with. And it’s used by firefighters the world over to scrape away at earth while digging line, to cut branches off trees, to hack away roots. Jim has them on display all over the place along the trail.  

[Jim See]: “When a firefighter raises a Pulaski, that story about Ed Pulaski in the 1910 fire gets retold over and over again.”   

Justin Angle The story of Ed Pulaski captivated Jim ever since he first hiked this trail. In fact, he’s head of the Pulaski Project, a local citizens’ group dedicated to restoring the trail. He says the trail didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It took a lot of sweat, tears, dozens of people, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Over the nearly three decades since Jim first trekked up the hill, it’s transformed from overgrown and unknown to a history buff and hiker hotspot. And more than that, it’s become a home for Jim. The trail you see today is thanks to Jim’s vision.

[Jim See]: “I thought this trail has not only a great hike, but it’s has great history that history need to be saved.

What happened along the way is the trail and the story basically sold itself. I mean, everybody got on board. It was, it was almost like once the ball got rolling, there was no stopping it. And being a part of that, all of a sudden, you really felt the responsibility to do it right. Cut no corners. There were a lot of obstacles in the way and saw them as obstacles that needed to be overcome. Either go over, you go around or you figure it out. You get to the point where you’re kind of driven because you owe it. To the guys that died. You almost came to know ‘em. And all firefighters. They deserve our respect and I guess our admiration. And the trail is dedicated to them.”

Justin Angle More than 80 people died in the Big Burn, and smoke could be seen all over the country. Towns were evacuated across the region. Here, in Wallace, a third of the city burned down. 

Settlers and the government had been trying to suppress wildfire for decades — but the devastation across the northwest pushed that simmering battle against flames to an all out war. The government decided that an event like this could never happen again. So federal agencies started making major changes to how they deal with fire.

A big part of how those changes happened had to do with one man. Like Pulaski, he was a larger-than-life figure in the world of forestry back then.

[Gifford Pinchot]: “I love the woods and everything about them. Whatever forestry might be, I was for it.”

Justin Angle That’s Gifford Pinchot, Well not really. It’s an actor named Gary Hines. He’s donning a big handlebar mustache and the signature green forest ranger’s uniform. He’s playing Pinchot in a one-man play adapted for public tv in the early 90s. 

Pinchot was the first ever chief of the Forest Service, who would chart the course for how the country deals with fire. Pinchot was born in 1865, to a wealthy family in Connecticut. He fell in love with wild places in the forests of the East and in travels through Europe. And he observed that in the country’s enormous woodlands:

[Gifford Pinchot]: “Forest destruction was in full swing. “Get timber by hook or by crook”– that was the rule of the citizen. Get rid of it quick was the rule of the government for the vast timberlands it still controlled. And forest fires raged unchecked.”

Justin Angle By the time Pinchot was frolicking in forests, ideas about preserving our wild places were taking hold in parts of society. For some, wilderness had gone from something to be conquered and overcome, to something worth fighting for. Writers like John Muir and Henry David Thoreau proselytized about the natural world as something that ought to be preserved simply for its own sake. 

Pinchot brought a new perspective. He still saw tremendous value in our forests and wild places. But that value was for people. He wanted to manage forests for the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the longest time.

[Gifford Pinchot]: “I am a forester all the time, have been, and always will be.”

Justin Angle To this day, the Forest Service is under the Department of Agriculture. Trees are a crop. Like grain or wheat.

By the early 20th Century, policymakers had realized the economic potential of the country’s forests. 

[Gifford Pinchot]: “In nineteen hundred and five the reserves were transferred to the Department of Agriculture. One month later, the Bureau of Forestry was changed to the Forest Service. No one was more pleased than I.”

Justin Angle Pinchot was so happy because he was at the helm of the brand new federal agency. He’d set the course for how to deal with forests across the country. And that meant figuring out how to deal with fire.

[Gifford Pinchot]: “Forest officers have three chief duties to protect the reserves against fire, to assist the people in their use, and to see that they are properly used.”

Justin Angle To Pinchot and his followers, the forest was a resource. And fire threatened its bounty. In the wake of the Big Burn,

[Steve Pyne]: ” Fire is the great public relations campaign, that damages from fire are so extreme and are so easily understood or apparently understood by the public that they will make fire is the way to convey their message.”

Justin Angle That’s Steve Pyne, a fire historian at Arizona State University. Fire is life for Steve. In his younger days, he fought fire for a number of years near the Grand Canyon. He’s written extensively about fire, and the forest management legacy Pinchot left behind. 

He said back in 1910, the devastation of the Big Burn set a ball in motion. The Forest Service began a crusade against fire.

Steve Pyne In effect, we’re going to double down. All these men, all that money wasn’t spent in vain. We’re going to knock fire out of the landscape. It was a crazy ambition.

Justin Angle We’d built cities in the wilderness, industrialized from coast to coast. It must have felt like there was nothing we can’t do, and there was a real hunger of scientific solutions to huge, social problems. In the years after the Big Burn, the Forest Service began putting new policies in place.

Steve Pyne In 1935, the chief forester announces what became known as the 10 a.m. policy. A single universal standard for every fire, every place. The idea was we have enough resources to knock fire out once in one grand. One grand gesture.

Justin Angle That policy meant every fire would be snuffed out by 10am the next morning, and provided an arsenal of new resources to make it happen.

At the same time we started stamping out fires, other changes were happening in our society, too. For one: 

Steve Pyne Increasingly, Americans are moving to cities or suburbs.

Justin Angle By 1920, for the first time, more Americans lived in cities than in rural areas.

Steve Pyne They don’t experience fire. They’re not warming their houses with fire. They’re not burning off their lawns and they’re, they’re prunings with fire. It’s prohibited in almost all urban settings. Their sense of fire is urban. And they would like to project that urban style out on the landscape.

Justin Angle As the country dealt with a Great Depression and fought foreign threats, our war on fire continued. By the 1940s, Americans had grown entranced by the silver screen, and fire had made its way into the movies, too. 

[Bambi clip]: “Get up Bambi, get up…:”

Justin Angle Bambi was one of the first mainstream films to depict forest fire as something to be feared. In 1943, that little deer was even adopted for one of the nation’s early wildfire prevention campaigns. Disney didn’t let that happen for long, so the Forest Service had to create its own character. And an icon was born.

[Smokey Bear song]: “In New Mexico, many years ago, a fire trapped a bear…”

Justin Angle Today, Smokey Bear is the longest-running public service ad campaign in U.S. history.

[Smokey Bear song]: “…The next stop for smokey was Washington DC, they made him a ranger there…” 

Justin Angle By the middle of the 20th century, animals like wolves and grizzlies had nearly been eliminated from the landscape. From the onslaught in the media, fire was another terrifying predator, as dangerous as the claws of a bear. The legacy of the big burn continued.

But as this ugly side of fire became part of the public consciousness, a very different view of fire also began to emerge. 

Steve Pyne If we date the origins of modern fire, American fire history from 1910, half of that history has been spent trying to take fire out of the landscape. And the last half has been trying to put it back in.

[Smokey Bear clip]: “You have so many reasons to protect your forests. Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.”

Steve Pyne It turns out, however, that it’s a lot easier to take it out than to put it in.

[Andrew Larson]: “Fire is just an event. It is just part of the dynamics of these forests. It’s not good or bad. It just is…”

Justin Angle That’s Andrew Larson, a champion of fire’s role on the landscape — a role that came to be more widely understood in the second half of the twentieth century.

Andrew’s a forest ecologist at the University of Montana. He studies how forests change over time, and he’s taking our producer Victor on a tour of a recent burn outside Missoula, Montana. 

[Andrew Larson]: “These are flammable systems full of species that are adapted to and some even require burned environments.”

Justin Angle If you look close enough inside even a pretty recent burn, you can find signs of life amidst all the death. Low intensity burns refresh nutrients in soil. Animals like the black-backed woodpecker depend on burnt forests. Deer and elk flock to new bursts of grass in areas that burned the season before. Canada lynx and their prey — snowshoe hares — depend on forests with all kinds of trees, including areas regenerating in the decades after a burn. 

As scientists learned about the importance of fire, agencies that deal with fire began to implement their ideas. In the 1970s, a ‘let it burn’ policy went into place for natural fires that didn’t pose threats to homes or other property in national parks and wilderness areas.

But by the end of the next decade, that policy was put to the test.

[News clip]: “It’s not getting any easier for firefighters at Yellowstone National Park. Forecast today is for winds of up to 60 miles an hour… ”

Justin Angle More than a third of America’s oldest national park had gone up in flames, and many feared it would never be the same. 

[News clip]: “…While firefighters try to get a hand on the blazes, officials in Washington try to reassess the park’s policy to let naturally-sparked fires burn themselves out, which Interior Secretary Hodel calls a disaster…”

Justin Angle A long-simmering battle over fire management – science versus values – had a public face. And no amount of data, charts and studies could change how the public felt about flames blazing through one of the country’s national treasures.

Andrew happened to be in Yellowstone that scorcher of a summer in 1988. He was nine years old, and the fires had just started picking up. He remembers seeing a small blaze from a distance, and the intense emotional response that followed. 

[Andrew Larson]: “I wanted so urgently to cross that creek and put that little fire out. I was just desperate to do it. And my grandfather had to sort of calm me down a little bit and explain that that wasn’t safe, and also that that wasn’t the right thing to do. And that we were here in this National Park and it was ok for that fire to be burning there.”

Justin Angle Andrew says even at that age, he’d been programmed with a very particular view of fire: 

[Smokey Bear clip]: “Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.” 

[Andrew Larson]: “That constant messaging almost from birth that people are exposed to that lead you to this story that the only healthy forest is a green forest and that fire is always the enemy and a bad thing. I mean it’s constant, and it’s everywhere. And it continues.”

Justin Angle In 2017, the Lolo Peak fire burned more than 50 thousand acres here. 

Andrew’s devoted more than 20 years to understanding the impacts of fires like this one on the ecosystems in which they take place. Andrew’s childhood self probably would have worried about this fire, too. But, walking around the burnt-up woods, Andrew sees forest health, not destruction.

[Andrew Larson]: “I mean, it’s pretty remarkable here. We have the most fire resistant tree species growing right next to the least fire resistant tree species in the Northern Rockies.”

Justin Angle A few years after the fire, there’s lots of black. But also, a great deal of green. Blooming flowers burst through the deep char, live trees stand right next to dead ones, and within the scorched duff, the forest floor is teeming with new life.

The impact of a fire on a whole landscape isn’t uniform. If you zoom out and look down at the trees, the remnants of a burn look like patches on a massive quilt.

[Andrew Larson]: “What they leave behind is this sort of patchwork mosaic of stuff like this that we’re sitting or in places like what we can see on he other side of the hill over there and it burned a lot hotter and there’s a bigger, open high-severity patch. But that sort of patchwork mosaic, if you put out those fires year after year after year, you lose that, and it all grows into what we see down there.” 

Justin Angle ‘Down there’ is a huge swath of green — a dense forest with no thin spots to break it up.

As a scientist, Andrews’s working to combat the simple narratives around fire. That it’s always bad or even always the same.

One of those narratives is about areas like that dense, green forest Andrew’s pointing to. That story goes:

[Andrew Larson]: “By putting fires out there, it’s led to fuel accumulation and forest densification so that when a fire starts, it burns with uncharacteristic effects.”

Justin Angle Those effects mean searing hot infernos that can scorch the soil instead of rejuvenating it. Huge, tall trees that would ordinarily survive often die — rather than just the smaller vegetation in between that bigger, older growth.

This narrative has seized our imagination. When we see a big fire like the Lolo, or a big smoke plume, it’s easy to say, ‘That fire isn’t natural at all; it’s a result of us, of what we did to the forest.’

But Andrew says that narrative actually overemphasizes the impact humans have had on parts of our environment. 

[Andrew Larson]: “The Lolo fire, for a big chunk of it, that was perfectly normal. That was well within the range for northern rockies fire behavior.”

Justin Angle Andrew calls this spot the messy middle, where the flames crept through and killed the trees that aren’t built to survive fire. 

And this idea – Understanding fire as ‘normal’ – it’s really important. When we can pin the blame for a burn on the ways we’ve manipulated nature, fire becomes something unnatural. Something that’s harder to tolerate. 

We humans like to organize things into neat models in our brains. But I really like that term of Andrew’s – “messy middle.” Because forests and fires so often don’t fit into the boxes we’ve built for them. They’re messy. 

[Andrew Larson]: “There’s so much complexity that there’s no simple answer. And we have to, we have to basically get comfortable broadening our idea of what a forest looks like and what’s an acceptable or normal or good looking forest.”

Justin Angle He remembers the Lolo Peak fire back in 2017 really well. Watching the fire explode just outside his home, he struggled: he saw it as a father and a community member, but also as a scientist. 

[Andrew Larson]: “I have some pictures, I can dig ‘em out, on my phone…”

Justin Angle He tries to pull up this particular photo: he was at a park with his daughter —

[Andrew Larson]: “…You know, the kid was on the slide and going down swings and things like that and here was this giant, huge column of smoke in the background coming off of the fire.”

Justin Angle That column descended on Missoula. For weeks, the city was socked in with smoke. 

[Andrew Larson]: “I mean, it was almost traumatic. I don’t wanna use that word lightly, but, God, it was brutal.” 

Justin Angle I remember it too. It was the sort of smoke that makes your entire life smell like a campfire. And when you’re in that smoke long enough, it seeps into your whole body. It can make asthma worse. It can scratch at even healthy lungs. And there can be serious health effects over time. 

The thing is, historically there was probably always smoke in the sky at some point of fire season. Instead of getting rid of the source completely, he says we need to learn to live with it better, because: 

[Andrew Larson]: “Fire is an inevitable part of this landscape. It’s just – we live in a flammable place. And, there’s nothing we can do on the land management side of things to get rid of fire. And we have to get past the promise that forestry made the world years and years ago that we can control fire and put it out and regulate the forest in that way. We’ve proved that it’s not possible. And so, what we can do is say yes, we live in a smoky, flammable environment. How do we deal with that?”

Justin Angle Andrew thinks we need to reestablish a healthy relationship with fire, one in which fire and smoke aren’t always the bad guy. But getting there is an uphill battle. And at the heart of that struggle is getting past the way we’ve been conditioned to think about fire since 1910.

[Andrew Larson]: “It’s such a simple and sort of moral message.”

Justin Angle That simple message is easier to live with than the messy reality.

[Andrew Larson]: “I guess I worry that we haven’t made any progress as a society past that. Despite everything that we’ve learned since about the role of fire, the inevitability of fire, the dependence of so many ecosystem functions and species and biodiversity on fire. That we still program and message that sort of a belief and response into much of society. Sometimes it makes me feel a little bit, I don’t know, like, am I making any difference here with the science? That’s what I wonder sometimes.”

Justin Angle Historian Steve Pyne again.

[Steve Pyne]: “I think the 1910 narrative is a great story. I don’t want it to go away and it’s a great heritage for fire suppression to look back on. The problem is it’s the only story we have. We need other stories of comparable power and that’s what we don’t have. And that’s really hard. That’s really hard to do.”

[Voice 1]: “There is something very fundamental about the difference in diet between humans and chimpanzees. And that is, that humans absolutely rely on fire.”

[Voice 2]: “We fuel our economy based on the combustion of fossil fuels and we forget that that’s part of our continued story with fire.”

Justin Angle That’s next time on Fireline.

Victor Yvellez Fireline is hosted by Justin Angle. Writing, editing, and production is by Nick Mott and me, Victor Yvellez. Our fact checking is by Aj Williams. Original theme music is by Travis Yost with additional music from Blue Dot Sessions. Our cover art is by Jessy Stevenson.

Additional support for this program comes from Montana Public Radio, United Way of Missoula County, and the Trailhead. Narration recorded at Studio 49 at the University of Montana’s College of Business.

Special thanks to Jim See, Tom Harman, Steve Pyne, and Andrew Larson.