Comments on: Wildfires, cities, rural landscapes, and the wildland-urban interface History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:41:03 +0000 hourly 1 By: HarleyMC Fri, 28 Sep 2012 09:09:44 +0000 Ever-so-slowly fire management practices in Australia are starting to incorporate elements of traditional Aboriginal firestick farming.
There are many well documented (from early journal extracts, colonial painting and Indigenous histories) that ‘the bush’ across vast swaths of Australia at time of colonization was open grasslands with isolated pockets of mature trees with few seedling trees near them. These are landscapes that took hundreds of years of controlled burns to create.
Within twenty or so years many of these ‘parkland like’ were transformed into dense forests by the disruption/suppression of the old fire patterns. Now we have inferno wildfires that kill all before them.
On a tangential note…Initially there were howls of protest from the worst hit communities when the recent massive Victorian fires forced the need for revised building codes (and so prevented rebuilding the most vulnerable building types) but after the delay to revise the codes, the rebuilt communities are a lot safer and I’ve not heard any recent community disquiet about improved safety standards.
I was horrified when almost two years ago the same areas of Brisbane flooded as in the seventies. Again there was loss of lives as well as property. Government’s response? A tax levey to help rebuild the flooded infrastructure. Are we supposed to relive the tragedy every generation?

By: Historiann Thu, 28 Jun 2012 02:46:36 +0000 Wow, Paul–thanks for the link. Those photos are pretty terrifying.

I have to note that there’s nowhere near the density of development in the foothills outside Fort Collins. But then, COS is a much bigger city than is FC, plus your city is just more jammed up in your foothills, which are more glamorous than ours up north.

At least, they were more glamorous. I will be very interested to see and hear what happens to these mountain neighborhoods after the fire is put out. Rebuilding would seem like folly to me, but another trope (that goes along very well with the military metaphors described in Lloyd Burton’s editorial) of wildfire reportage are the avowals of homeowners to return and rebuild, even while the fire still rages. I have no idea if these folks ever do this, but it seems to be part of the martial ideology, mixed up with mountain love: “I won’t leave my land! I will rebuild!”

And Janice: great story about the bears. Here in Colorado, it’s clear that the people who “meet” bears in their kitchens are clearly stupid or eager to have some human-bear interaction. It seems like there’s a pretty strong ethic up in the Colorado mountains that people need to bear-proof their homes, towns, and campsites, and those who don’t asked for whatever bear love they get.

By: Paul Harvey Wed, 27 Jun 2012 22:46:32 +0000 To all Historiann readers: here is an amazing photo slideshow of the Waldo Canyon Fire, from the Denver post, 79 photos that capture the varied landscapes involved and really illustrate the points of the editorial that Historiann pointed us to in the first place:

By: Janice Wed, 27 Jun 2012 22:05:12 +0000 When I lived within a stone’s throw of downtown, here, we had bears cross the street in front of our house. The divide between rural and urban isn’t always that deep. Especially now that the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources has stopped answering calls about bears on the loose in cities and refers all those to the local police or simply advises callers to stay inside or bang pots. *sigh*

Some nasty fires out there: I will keep people in my thoughts. The problems of forest and wilderness ‘management’ are legion and, as you rightly note, very much tied to how we envision wilderness, wildlife and our national lifestyles. A former grad student is working on his dissertation on the history of wildlife and parks policy in the province: I need to sit down with him while he’s in town this summer and listen to what he can share on these topics.

By: Historiann Wed, 27 Jun 2012 19:32:01 +0000 Yeah. Gather up the pets & have your vital records and documents ready by the door. Here’s hoping the fire will be under control soon.

By: Paul Harvey Wed, 27 Jun 2012 19:00:24 +0000 It’s just a little above (west and north of) Garden of the Gods (it’s been closed for last two days since obviously it’s so close); right now main thrust seems to be moving northward, it’s in the foothills above the Air Force stadium that’s visible from I-25. Pre-evac orders have reached a neighborhood about 2 miles from me, so I guess I won’t be doing any footnote checking today after all!

By: Historiann Wed, 27 Jun 2012 18:17:49 +0000 Yes, it is a loss. The Flying W is a Colorado tradition!

If the fire got that place, can Garden of the Gods be safe? As I recall, GoG is just a bit south of the Flying W.

By: Paul Harvey Wed, 27 Jun 2012 18:12:14 +0000 Historiann, thanks for asking, I’m fine here in downtown COS (about 3 miles SE of the evacuated areas) but some faculty in my department who live in NW COS had to evacuate to Denver. Flying W is indeed gone (a real loss for you, given the iconography of your blog), as are quite a few houses in that region (I saw one estimate of about 100, but that’s just a wild guess probably). I saw it happen literally before my own eyes yesterday — at the gym at my campus, which has a great set of windows overlooking the region to the west, I watched about 4:30 p.m. as wind gusts suddenly picked up and unexpectedly shifted direction, fire started racing down the foothills towards town, and by the time I left the smoke/haze gave everything that movie-set post-apocalyptic feel. Woodland Park and nearby just now being evacuated, I guess that means Hwy. 24 remains in peril.

I visited Flying W also as a kid! Growing up where I did in rural OK, cowboys weren’t very exciting to me since we got that all the time, but must have been fun for you “Easterners.”

By: Matt_L Wed, 27 Jun 2012 12:56:06 +0000 I second Indyanna’s Stephen Pyne reference. He is the fire guy with books on American wild fires, but also covering Australia. His argument about fire as a transhuman phenomenon is pretty neat.

I grew up in SoCal where we had the annual Holiday Apocalypse. Some combination of fire, mudslide or earthquake would materialize between thanksgiving and Easter and wipe out a subdivision. The fires were always called wild fires, but really they were happening in the (sub)urban landscape. The fire would start in the chaparral on a vacant lot or open space near a subdivision, the wind would whisk up the canyons and the fire would be in people’s backyards before you could say boo. The problem was that people were turning the WUI into the city very quickly, so there was no place for the fire to burn out. And the fire is central to the chaparral ecology. So every fire the authorities put out, was just adding fuel to the next big firestorm.

I love big cities, especially San Francisco, Vienna, Budapest, and Paris. Right now I live in a small city of 20,000 people in the Upper Midwest. Its pretty and it turns out I like gardening. But most of the time I’d rather live someplace with a metro. But then I probably wouldn’t have a garden. Tradeoffs.

By: Historiann Wed, 27 Jun 2012 10:22:55 +0000 The fire in Colorado Springs has burned very close to the city. From the DP article this morning:

“By early evening, the website for the Flying W Ranch, a Western-themed attraction west of Garden of the Gods, announced that it had ‘burned to the ground.’” Dang. I was going to take some family members there this summer! It’s one of my first memories of Colorado from the first time I visited as a 7-year old. Singing cowboys!

I hope you’re OK down there in COS, Paul Harvey.