Fire and the U.S. Forest Service

Volunteer fire crew equipped with Indian Fire Pumps.

Volunteer fire crew equipped with Indian Fire Pumps.

Helen Dowe

Helen Dowe at the Devil's Head Fire Lookout, Colorado, 1919.


Smokejumper descending toward forest fire in Montana, 1960s.

The threat of forest fires helped propel the U.S. government to set aside national forest reservations to protect watersheds, and future timber supplies. The U.S. Forest Service gained control of these lands in 1905, and in 1910, faced devastating forest fires in Idaho and Montana. Based on that experience, the agency began to establish fire policies. The Forest Service developed ways to forecast fire behavior, inform citizens about fire prevention, extinguish the flames, and provide federal aid to state and private landowners for fire protection.

The Forest Service Headquarters History Collection contains numerous documents on fire research, smokejumping, fire lookouts, pioneers of forest fire science, controlled burning, and large wildfires where lives were lost. For more information as well as for assistance in retrieving documents found in the Collections Database, email the library staff or call them at (919) 682-9319.

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