Firefighters today are modern day heroes, and history has made that apparent. Yet not always were wildland Firefighters held with the same respect as they do now, or work to the same standard. Fires like the Yacolt Burn of 1902, which killed 38 people and burned 239,920 acres of timber, influenced how forest fires are fought and how to keep the men and woman fighting them safe.
The Yacolt Burn was most likely ignited because of burning in the area as loggers operated, or due to farmers burning to clear land. An official cause was never given, as they lacked the investigative power that we now hold today. The fire was fueled by vast acreages of timber and driven by unusually dry winds. It traveled 36 miles in 36 hours, and with no collective effort in stopping it, the fire blackened the Clark, Cowlitz, and Skamania Counties, costing 30$ million in damages, . Lives were lost that day, and there was no organizational effort to protect or warn the people. Everyone was forced to flee, and hundreds lost their homes and belongings. Churches burned, barns, and even livestock. In the years following, steps were taken to make sure circumstances were never that critical again. In 1903, a year after the devastation, Washington State legislation created an official state fire warden, which holds essential authority in complex wildfire situations. Their job also include informing communities on wildfire prevention, and investigating previous fires in order to learn and adapt. Soon after the warden was established the Washington Fire Protection Association was founded. In 1908, leaders in the timber industry who suffered during the Yacolt burn mailed 800 letters to fellow timberland companies asking for support. 22 companies responded, and the association was born. Their job is to educate people on wildfire prevention in forested areas, and encourage people to invest in wild land protection.
The Yacolt Fire was the first major fire storm Washington State was faced with, but definitely not the last, and not even the largest. In 2015 and 2016 Washington state faced the two largest fires in its history. The Okanogan Complex burned 304,782 acres and Carlton Complex burned 256,108 acres, taking many homes and structures. It's thanks to fires like the Yacolt Fire that helped to educate us on how we manage the inevitable destruction.