National Geographic : 1968 Jul
I E STOOD with the gray-haired rang er on a high ridge in Oregon overlook ing a thousand square miles of forest. The night before, my GEOGRAPHIC colleague Jay Johnston and I had watched a particu larly violent thunderstorm of the type that plagued the Northwest in the bad summer of 1967: a storm full of crackling lightning and rolling thunder-but no rain. Now, miles away, we could see a dozen plumes marking new fires that lightning had set-igniting vegetation on the tinder-dry forest floor. Soon, if this summer's melan choly script was followed, these small fires would merge into big ones. "Well," said the ranger, "I see the devil went on a picnic again last night." Jay and I had come to the Northwest to write about forest fires and the ultramodern 102 methods by which the U. S. Forest Service seeks to control them. Virtually all parts of the United States suffer from fires each year. We chose the Northwest for our survey be cause it contains some of the Nation's major timber resources and has a long history of disastrous blazes. Soon we found ourselves not merely discussing fire control with ex perts, but actually feeling the heat and dodg ing the burning debris as we watched flames destroy great trees in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana (map, opposite).* We began our on-the-spot coverage on-of all things-a ski lift. Jay and I, with photog raphers Bates Littlehales and Ted Mahieu, soared up the slope of Hoodoo Butte in the Cascade Range of west-central Oregon. Be *See "Our Green Treasury, the National Forests," by Nathaniel T. Kenney, GEOGRAPHIC, September, 1956.