May 24, 2019
By Ken Brafman, Image from USDA Archive
TITLE: FIREFIGHTING AND OUR FOREST: This week’s image is a real photo showing an example of firefighting communications from the 1930s; part of the evolution of the Fire Service through the decades. In this photo the fire boss is taking notes while listening to the radio transmission. The antenna is affixed up the tree. The boss is wearing a tie, and it was normal for personnel to wear full uniforms in the field. The tie denoted governmental authority and was an easy way to show who was in charge. The wildlands of the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountain ranges were designated a national forest well over 100 years ago but leading up to that title gold was discovered in 1855. Over the second half of the 19th century mining, timber and grazing grew quickly, taking a heavy toll on the land. By the end of the century significant sectors of the forest had been felled and overgrazed. Streams and rivers were silting in and water quality was declining. Meanwhile a growing population and thriving citrus industry made increasing demands for clean drinking and irrigation water. The pioneers who had conquered a seemingly endless frontier began to realize that the time had come to manage the land more thoughtfully. A couple federal acts led to the formation of the San Bernardino National Forest in 1907. Our forest continues to be one of the most wildfire prone forests in the country. The Forest Service works year-round to reduce the risks severe wildfires pose to people, communities, firefighter safety and the environment through programs aimed at prevention, preparedness and fuels reduction. The world of fire suppression is changing. Fire seasons are longer and fire behavior is often more extreme. The Fire Service attributes this to climate change, an abundance of fuel and the modern practice of having communities adjacent to or within forest boundaries. All are encouraged to better understand our precious natural environment and how to protect it and keep our communities safe.