With wildfires burning this week in Northern California, I thought we would look at one of the largest wildfires in our countries history -- The Great Fire of 1910.

With wildfires burning this week in Northern California, I thought we would look at one of the largest wildfires in our countries history -- The Great Fire of 1910.

As in most cases with large conflagrations, it takes a series of conditions both leading up to and during the event to reach these devastating proportions. A perfect mixture of an early spring, an extremely warm and dry summer, and a cold northerly wind caused a fire to consume over three million acres, a fire the size of the state of Connecticut.

The fire burned only for two days, but in this time killed almost 90 people, most of whom were firefighters. One crew took cover in a prospector's mine in Idaho. Panic soon set in on the 40 men trapped in the mine as some threatened to try to escape.

The Forest Service Ranger in charge of the crew knew that leaving the mine trying to outrun the blaze would be their death warrant, so he drew his side arm and threatened to shoot anyone attempting to leave. When the fire was extinguished 35 of the 40 men had survived.

The fire was actually many smaller fires that were eventually blown into one. These individual fires were started in numerous ways from lightning to locomotives throwing sparks.

It is storied that the smoke from these fires located in the Pacific Northwest could be seen in Watertown, New York. The “Big Blowup” occurred on August 20 when an approaching cold front brought hurricane-force winds to the area, thus fueling the intensity of the hundreds of smaller fires and eventually creating one massive blaze.

The US Forest Service at the time was in its infancy and really did not have the resources to effectively battle the blaze. The debate within the Forest Service was not as much how to fight these fires but if to fight them.

This debate continues today within the ranks of the forest service. It is believed that wildfire is a natural progression of a forest and interrupting this cycle has not only caused damage to forest, but increases the intensity of forest and wild fires.

By allowing these fires to burn, it kills and thins out the smaller vegetation that is taking nutrients from the larger tress and vegetation. That smaller vegetation, when allowed to thicken, also adds to the fuel load when a fire breaks out making the intensity of these fires more dramatic.

As our populations continue to grow and our expanse takes us farther and farther into densely wooded areas, we have to be more aware of the dangers. How we interface with our surroundings and what we do to protect our homes and possessions is critical.

We cannot eliminate forest and wildfires; they are as much a part of nature as the trees and brush surrounding us. We can, however, minimize the risk by taking Urban Interface seriously.

For more information on how to protect you and your home from these types of fires visit MO Department of Conservation or United States Forest Service web sites on Urban Interface.