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Russell T. Graham, Theresa B. Jain, Kathy L. Graham, Robert Denner, Colin C. Hardy
Year Published:
Deborah C. Hayes, Susan L. Stout, Ralph H. Crawford, Anne P. Hoover

Cataloging Information

Fire Communication & Education
Public Perspectives of Fire Management
Fuel Treatments & Effects

NRFSN number: 13104
Record updated:

The 1910 fires, which burned more than 1.3 million ha of northern Rocky Mountain forests, provided a mission and management objectives for the newly created Forest Service. By 1911, the Priest River Experimental Station (Forest- PREF) was established in northern Idaho to help meet the needs of the Forest Service. Harry T. Gisborne, whose work was centered at PREF, proved to be one, if not the most influential and far-seeing fire researcher in the history of the Forest Service. Examples of his contributions include the fire danger rating system, fuel moisture sticks, short- and long-term specialized fire-weather forecasting, and the beginnings of predicting fire behavior. After Gisborne's death in 1949, Jack Barrows, one of Gisborne's assistants, led the fire program and introduced high-tech approaches to fire research. Barrows was instrumental in creating the state-of-the-art Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula, Montana. The McSweeney-McNary Act (1928) laid the groundwork for a nationwide system of forest experiment stations and experimental forests, and in 1933 Deception Creek (DCEF) and Boise Basin Experimental Forests (BBEF) were established. DCEF was located in a productive mixed conifer forest in northern Idaho. Fire was integral to studies conducted at DCEF on harvesting, regenerating, and tending western white pine stands. Research at BBEF in southern Idaho emphasized timber production within interior ponderosa pine forests and prescribed fire was studied as a means of preparing seedbeds and minimizing grass and shrub competition to trees. Similar to other dry forests of the West, wildfires were aggressively controlled at BBEF, causing portions of it to be overrun with seedlings and saplings, which created dense forests. As such, BBEF was well suited for investigating ways of restoring ponderosa pine forests. After nearly 100 years of fire research, we still strive to effectively manage forests in the face of ever-growing threats of urbanization and unwanted wildfires. Building on the legacy of research accomplished on the Idaho experimental forests and the basic understanding of fire and its effects the early researchers developed, these forests are now more valuable than ever.


Graham, Russell T.; Jain, Theresa B.; Graham, Kathy L.; Denner, Robert; Hardy, Colin. 2014. One-hundred years of wildfire research: A legacy of the Priest River, Deception Creek, and Boise Basin Experimental Forests of Idaho [Chapter 21]. In: Hayes, Deborah C.; Stout, Susan L.; Crawford, Ralph H.; Hoover, Anne P., eds. USDA Forest Service Experimental Forests and Ranges: Research for the long term. New York: Springer. p. 485-514.

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