When Fire Is Good

It thins the forest, releases nutrients into the soil,
and improves the habitat of plants and animals.

A critical role in the Forest Service’s stewardship of our national forests is management of fire. During the summer fire season, 10,000 wildland firefighters are employed to contain wildfires — 98 percent of which are contained within 24 hours of detection... The rest of the year, the Forest Service lights fires intentionally.

Small, prescribed burns clear out excess brush, limbs, dead trees and other fire fuel on the ground. They help make the unplanned fires smaller. And they protect our homes, communities, and natural resources.

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The era of fire suppression left many forests with too many trees – too much fuel.

“That’s where our problem lies – not letting fire take its course, and putting out fires for 60, 70, 80 years. That’s why we have these catastrophic events, and everybody’s upset. The real deal is that this needs to happen.”

– Dan Hauswald
Forest Service Burn Boss

“We’re restoring a natural process and trying to help the forest get healthy again.”

– Ali Dean
Central Oregon
Fire Management Service

“Fire is like whiskey. You don’t judge it as soon as it comes out of the still.” – Ali Dean

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Public Defenders

“While the life of the forester in the field is often rough, many times exceedingly hard, and always without most of the comforts of life, it is to those of us who have been following it the most delightful of occupations. In few other professions can a man lead so useful a life.”

– Gifford Pinchot
First chief of the Forest Service, 1901

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- Airborn Firefighters -


Dropped into remote fires by helicopter, rappellers pack
in their own rope, helmets, tools and food –
enough to survive for 36 hours –
in packs that weigh up to 120 pounds.
On the ground they use tools
such as pulaskis –
one end axe, one end hoe
– to separate black from green
and contain fires.

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Most burns require between two and four rappellers and up to three days to put out.

Wenatchee Valley
Rappellers Base
Washington, USA

The Wenatchee Valley Rappellers was founded after a devastating fire in 1970 that claimed more than 130,000 acres in Wenatchee National Forest.

Since rappellers began working in the Pacific Northwest’s Region 6 in 1972, they have responded to more than 4,000 fires on public lands.

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A Shared History

“One generation passeth away and another generation cometh,
but the Earth abideth forever.”

- President Abraham Lincoln
December 1, 1862

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  • 1872
    The first Arbor Day is celebrated in the United States.

  • 1887
    Log Cabin syrup is introduced.

  • 1896-1899
    Klondike Gold Rush.

  • 1907
    The Society of American Foresters is established by Gifford Pinchot.

  • 1910
    Three million acres of forest in Idaho and Montana burn in what is considered to be the largest forest fire in American history.

  • 1916
    Congress creates the National Park Service with the National Park Service Organic Act.

  • 1925
    Construction begins on Glines Canyon Dam on Washington State’s Elwha River.

  • 1935
    The Forest Service institutes the “10 a.m. policy,” stipulating that fires should be contained or controlled by 10 a.m. the morning after they are reported.

  • 1940
    C.C. Filson Co. is outfitter to the U.S. Forest Service.

  • 1956
    Jack Kerouac spends 63 days as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in Washington state’s North Cascade Mountains, an experience that informs his novels Desolation Angels and The Dharma Bums

  • 1967
    Dick Proenneke begins work on a cabin near Twin Lakes, AK. “Alone in the Wilderness,“ a documentary about his 30 years at the cabin, airs regularly on PBS.

  • 1970
    President Richard Nixon signs an executive order to establish the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • 1973
    President Nixon signs the Endangered Species Act.

  • 1987
    Krist Novoselic, Kurt Cobain and Aaron Burckhard form Nirvana in Aberdeen, WA.

  • 2008
    Major League Baseball commissions USFS to research why bats were breaking at such a high rate. As a result of implementing USFS’s recommendations, breakage is down more than 50%.

  • 2011
    Glines Canyon Dam removal begins as part of the Elwha Ecosystem Restoration Project.

  • 1870
  • 1880
  • 1890
  • 1900
  • 1910
  • 1920
  • 1930
  • 1940
  • 1950
  • 1960
  • 1970
  • 1980
  • 1990
  • 2000
  • 2010
  • 2020
  • 1881
    U.S. Division of Forestry begins.

  • 1891
    Forest Reserve Act designates public lands in the West as “forest reserves.”

  • 1897
    C.C. Filson Co. is established in Seattle.

  • 1905
    President Theodore Roosevelt forms the United States Forest Service with Gifford Pinchot serving as its first Chief.

  • 1914
    C.C. Filson Co. patents the Filson Cruiser.

  • 1925
    The first Heybrook Lookout is erected in Washington state’s Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

  • 1939
    The nation’s first smokejumper training jump was made in Washington State’s North Cascades.

  • 1941
    Woody Guthrie is paid by the Bonneville Power Administration to write 26 songs inspired by Washington State’s Columbia River and its dams.

  • 1944
    Smokey Bear is born, informing campers: “Care Will Prevent 9 out of 10 Forest Fires.”

  • 1964
    The Redmond Smokejumper Base is opened in Redmond, OR.

  • 1969
    Gore-Tex® is invented by Bob Gore.

  • 1971
    The Wenatchee Valley Rappellers is founded after a devastating fire in 1970 claimed more than 130,000 acres in Wenatchee National Forest.

  • 1976
    University of Chicago Press publishes Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It and Other Stories.

  • 1988
    793,880 acres of Yellowstone National Park are affected by the most severe wildfires in the park’s history.

  • 2001
    Homer Simpson depicts Paul Bunyan in “Simpsons Tall Tales,” episode 21, season 12 of The Simpsons.

  • 2009
    Washington State University graduate Thomas Tidwell assumes the office of Chief of the United States Forest Service.

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishes Timothy Egan’s The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America.

  • 2017
    Filson restores Heybrook Fire Lookout in Index, WA.

Sources: USFS, USDA, EPA, WSU, NPS, History Net, North Cascade Smokejumper Base, Bonneville Power Administration, NY Times, University of Chicago Press Books, Simpsons World

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- Born in the Northwest -


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Smokejumpers have been parachuting into remote wildfires for almost 80 years. The practice began in Washington State’s North Cascades, where fires are difficult to reach from roads and trails.

Today, Smokejumpers around the country continue to be deployed with axes and chainsaws to contain hard-to-reach fires.

Smokejumpers in Oregon’s Redmond Smokejumper Base respond to an average of 75 fires every season.

Crews drop enough food and gear into the forest with smokejumpers for them to be self-sufficient for up to 48 hours.

“Once you’re in the plane, there’s no going back...”

“...We’ve never had anybody back away from the door.”

- Bill Selby
Redmond Smokejumper
Program Manager

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Dedication. Service.

For over 100 years the Forest Service has been committed to the preservation and stewardship of America’s most precious natural resources: our public lands.

Through their tireless efforts, 193 million acres of grasslands and National Forests are ours to explore, now and for generations to come.

USFS Since 1905

Any of Filson’s contributions made with the U.S. Forest Service do not by direct reference or implication convey U.S. Forest Service endorsement of Filson’s products or activities.