Nobody talked about man-made climate change in 1910.  It was a very dry year across the northwest.  In late summer, the most devastating fire in American history broke out.  It scorched a huge swath of the Idaho panhandle and neighboring states.  Sources say it wiped out more than three million acres of forest, farms, and entire communities.

I spent a week in the area a few summers ago.  There aren’t many visible scars left, at least not where I looked.  However, I believe there’s always a fear among the locals that it could happen again.

The Big Burn Still Haunts us Today

There have been books and films about the tragedy.  One documentary was based on a Timothy Egan book.  Egan has a knack for writing about the worst points of American history.  Along with the book the Big Burn, he wrote a book about the Dirty 30s called the Worst Hard Time.

You can also find more details about the Big Burn at the state museum in Boise.  It’s near Julia Davis Park and was renovated shortly before the pandemic.  The story of the fire is the most impressive exhibit I found during a visit.  The museum still operates as if the Bubonic Plague were afoot, so you should make reservations in advance.  Adult admission was 10 bucks the last time I was there.

Is There a Better Method for Preventing Wildfires

The fire in the panhandle greatly changed the approach to forest management in the United States.  But keep in mind, we’re not talking settled science.  There is still an ongoing debate on approaches to prevention.

Unless we get some late-season snow in the mountains and a few days of soaking rain in the valley, we may be hearing a lot about theories in the coming months.

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