Module Nine

If Trees Could Talk Modules

Fire: Fight, Flight or Coexistence?

A wildfire in Yellowstone Park.
Courtesy of NOAA Paleoclimatology Program.


Wildfires: Fight, Flight, or Coexistence? has students examine the history of wildland fires and their impact on society in America. Exploring our approaches to living with fire, students will examine various fire management techniques including prescribed fires, fire suppression, and fire prevention. Students will take a closer look at the Tillamook burn in Oregon, and conduct a research project on wildfire history in another state. Students will also gain a better understanding of Smokey Bear and the role of symbols in information campaigns.

Image Caption: A wildfire in Yellowstone Park.
Courtesy of NOAA Paleoclimatology Program.


  • The students will conduct historical research; obtaining historical data.
    (Historical Thinking, Standard: 4B)
  • The students will identify historical issues, evaluate alternative courses of action and formulate a position or course of action on an issue.
    (Historical Thinking, Standard: 5A, 5D, & 5E)
  • The students will learn how the rise of heavy industry and farming transformed the American people and land.
    (Era 6, Contemporary United States: Standard 1)
  • Social Studies
    • The students will examine the ways in which institutions change over time, promote social conformity, and influence culture. They should be encouraged to use this understanding to suggest ways to work through institutional change for the common good.
      (Standard V: Individuals, Groups and Institutions)




Teacher Preparation:

Download and Print: Module 9 Teacher and Student PDFs using Adobe Acrobat and make one copy per student of the student pages.

For Day 1 activity: Read over the teacher's directions for Worksheet 1, then using index cards recreate worksheet 1. Each index card should have the question from the left column of worksheet 1 on one side and the corresponding right column (answer) on the other side. Be sure to read the directions to understand how this activity works before using it with students.


Class Extensions

Arrange a field trip to a local forest and examine a burn site or arrange a field trip to get a first-hand look at fire fighting tools and equipment. Or invite a guest speaker from a local forest or forest service office to discuss their firefighting tools, equipment, and management plans in more detail.

Using the bibliographic database, have students look for articles on smokejumpers and create a video, or write a newspaper article about the history of smokejumping. Student can learn more about the first smokejumping teams, first female smokejumpers, first African American smokejumpers, changes in smokejumper techniques, uniforms, etc. Basically allow students to find any new information that was not included in the Essay.

Team Teaching Possibilities

Technology: Students could conduct Internet research in their technology class. Students could also create some type of graph (using Excel) or graphic for their State Fire Poster in Worksheet 3. Students could also create a PowerPoint presentation to use when presenting Worksheet 3.

English: Students could give their speeches from Worksheet 3, Rubric 2 in English class.

Math: Using the Wildfire Timeline have students graph the occurrences of major wildfires and the number of acres burned.

Science: Have students learn more about forest succession and research the ecological benefits of wildfires in the forest ecosystem.


Goudsblom, Johan. Fire and Civilization. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.

Pyne, Stephen J. America’s Fires: A Historical Context for Policy and Practice. Durham, NC: Forest History Society, 2011. [Order]

The Greatest Good: A Forest Service Centennial Film. 2005. Producers/Directors, Steve Dunsky and Dave Steinke. California. USDA Forest Service. 3 DVDs (300 minutes). [Order]

Timber on the Move: A History of Log Moving Technology. 1981. Producer/Editor, Vester Dick. North Carolina. Forest History Society. VHS (34 minutes). [Order]

Up in Flames: A History of Fire Fighting in the Forest. 1984. Producer/Editor, Vester Dick. North Carolina. Forest History Society. VHS (29 minutes) [Order]


Forest History Society Bibliographic resources on wildfires and environmental history. Ordering for: American Forests: A History of Resiliency and Recovery, The Greatest Good film.

Environmental Protection Agency Wildland Fires background and fact information .

The Oregon Encyclopedia article about the historic Tillamook burn.

USDA Forest Service “Living with Fire” game for ages 10 & up. This site contains some valuable information about forest fires, even if you do not have students play the game. It is designed for Science teachers.