The American West is on fire. ICW turns its attention to the calamity of western wildfire with a three-year research, teaching, and outreach project. Thanks to generous funding from USC Dornsife, the Institute has recently launched “The West on Fire” initiative. Our goal is to place western wildfire in historical context, to learn from dozens of disciplinary and other sets of fire knowledge, and to broaden public awareness of the region’s relationship with fire in the past, present, and future.
New & Noteworthy
Sierra Nevada Conservancy governing board voted to award $282,380 to ICW for a Sierra-Sequoia Burn Cooperative Prescribed Fire Training Exchange
The project proceeds with a set of work-in-progress goals. Our working group draws from a diverse collection of fire experts across multiple disciplines. Ecologists, Indigenous fire practitioners, US Forest Service personnel, earth scientists, economists, political scientists, journalists, archivists, curators (and others) have come together to share expertise and help us work on a set of inked objectives. These include a just-launched search for a one-year postdoctoral research fellow working on any disciplinary aspect of western American fire; a call for new course syllabi on western fire at USC (freshmen, undergraduate, and doctoral courses); three regional case studies of western fire across epochal timescales; focused work and training with Indigenous fire and prescribed burn experts; collected data and research findings pertaining to the deleterious public health threats of wildfire smoke; an oral history initiative drawing diverse “fire voices” from western settings; a broad public conference (“The West on Fire”); and a collected essay volume of original fire research.
Throughout the project’s duration, our aim is to broaden the discussion of western fire, deepen the public’s contextual knowledge of fire history, and work towards new ways of thinking about fire in the region and in our neighborhoods. We will add to this website as we move forward, so please continue to check this space
The moment has never been more timely nor urgent.
Shell-Shocked and Irradiated: Managing Ukraine’s Forests in Time of War
A conversation with the Head of the Regional Eastern Europe Monitoring Center (REEFMC), Professor Sergiy Zibtsev about the historical and current challenges of Ukrainian forest fire management. The event will be moderated by Jameson Karns, ICW’s “West on Fire” Assistant Research Director. Further contemporary and historical perspective will be offered by Robert English, Professor of International Relations at USC Dornsife.
This programming is brought to you in partnership with the Forest History Society.
Stephen J. Pyne on The Pyrocene: How We Created an Age of Fire, and What Happens Next
Pyne and ICW Director William Deverell discuss Pyne’s most recent book, The Pyrocene: How We Created an Age of Fire, and What Happens Next.
Stephen J. Pyne presents a riveting perspective of how humans and fire have evolved together over time, and our responsibility to reorient this relationship before it’s too late. The discussion will draw on the historical relationship between humans and fire, its impact on our geological planet, and his view on the new geologic epoch.
This programming is brought to you in partnership with The Huntington and USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.
California’s Formerly-Incarcerated Firefighters: A Conversation with Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Reyes and Community Stakeholders
During the fire season of 2020 the prospects, hopes, and futures of California’s nearly 4,000 formerly-incarcerated firefighters were lifted with the passage of Assembly Bill 2147. Created during the Second World War, the California Conservation Camp Program has been a critical fixture of the state’s fire management apparatus. Despite their training and experience as part of California’s emergency management system, these firefighters have traditionally faced challenging career prospects with fire management agencies.
Assembly Bill 2147, authored by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Reyes, allows California’s nearly 4,000 formerly-incarcerated firefighters to achieve a career the fire-fighting profession. Majority Leader Reyes joined Esteban Núñez, Director of Advocacy and Community Organizing, Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Edward Lopez, a firefighter at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to discuss this important legislation and their work with Bill Deverell.
West on Fire: Past, Present, and Future of Wildfire in the American West
As temperatures rise, wildfires intensify. Join Dr. Bill Deverell for a timely discussion about these increasingly hazardous blazes. Professor Deverell will address the West on Fire project, which he recently launched with several dozen colleagues—designed as a multi-year, interdisciplinary investigation of the past, present, and future of wildfire in the American West.
The West Burns: The Past, Present, and Future of the American West
Wildfires are scorching the western United States with increasing severity. Understanding the history of fire in the West, including Indigenous fire practices and fire’s many environmental legacies, is crucial to determining a more sustainable path forward.
Watch this conversation among experts on the issue, facilitated by historian Bill Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West and head of the institute’s The West on Fire project.
Joshua West is Associate Professor of Earth Sciences and Zinsmeyer Early Career Chair in Marine Studies in the Department of Earth Sciences at USC. His academic focus is on the chemical processes at the Earth’s surface, and how they maintain a habitable planet that supports life. He holds a BS from Yale and a MPhil and PhD from Cambridge.
Jared Dahl Aldern, Ph.D. is a historical ecologist based in central California. His research has focused on how Native American narratives express land tenure, fire history, and ecological relationships. He has taught Native American history at Palomar College, San Diego State University, and Stanford University, served on the graduate faculty at Prescott College, and taught multiple subjects in K-12 public schools. He has also worked in several capacities —including as an educator, environmental protection manager, grant writer and tribal administrator — for American Indian tribes and tribal consortia in California. He serves on the Southern Sierra Prescribed Fire Council’s steering committee and the Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project’s fire and tribal restoration work groups.
Theresa Gregor is a descendant of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel (Kumeyaay) as well as Yoeme (Yaqui). She is assistant professor of American Indian Studies at CSU Long Beach and earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in English at the University of Southern California. Before her tenure-track position at CSULB, she was an Adjunct Professor in the Department of American Indian Studies at CSU San Marcos and worked as the Lead Researcher for the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center. She also taught previously in the Departments of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of San Diego. Her tribal community work includes serving as the Executive Director of the Inter-Tribal Long Term Recovery Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a mission to strengthen and enhance the coordination of disaster preparedness and recovery efforts on tribal lands in Southern California. She currently serves on the Native Advisory Council at CSU San Marcos (present-2010). Recent publications include “Revising Critically Endangered Native Languages in California: Case Studies and Promising Practices” with Stan Rodriguez in On Indian Ground: California (2016) and the State of American Indian and Alaska Native Education in California Report (2016) with Dr. Joely Proudfit.