This morning, on day two of Backyards & Beyond, George Baker (retired Fire Chief out of Mashpee, MA) presented by refuting the common myth that "Big Wildfires Don't Just Happen in the West." Chief Baker also delivered a keynote address yesterday, so read the recap if you missed it. Today, he reviewed several significant wildfires that have occurred on the east side of the Mississippi, including what has happened since each fire and what steps, if any, have been taken to prevent another occurrence.
Eastern wildfires can affect larger numbers of people much quicker than some in the west will, due to the denser populations on this side of the country, so handling of them is much different than it is out west.The eastern wildfires Chief Baker covered were;
- Marlow-Stoddard Fire (New Hampshire, 1941)
- Cape Cod Fire (Massachusetts, 1946)
- Great Fires of 1947 (Acadia, Maine, 1947) which resulted in the formation of the Northeast Fire Protection Compact
- Mount Desert Island Fire (Maine, 1947)
- Sunrise Fire (Long Island, NY, 1995)
- Palm Coast Fire (Florida, 1998)
- Lateral West Fire (Great Dismal Swamp National Refuge, 2011) which lasted 111 days, and even Hurricane Irene didn't provide enough water to completely extinguish the fire
- Big Cypress National Preserve Fire (Florida, 2015)
Many eastern fires don't show up in the news because they are smaller, put out much quicker, and don't typically have hundred foot flames that make for great television. While we do have some large fires out east, sometimes, we may have 100 small fires at once, which also makes response challenging. So re-framing the message so everyone knows the east also has a wildfire problem, even if it is a bit different in characteristics than those of the west, and many times affects many, many more people. Wildfire risk reduction is therefore just as important in the east and should not be ignored.