Posts Tagged ‘Idaho’

Family and friends probably had to be careful when they lit the candles on a birthday cake for Harry Gisborne. As the first true specialist in forest fire research in the country, he might have held court about fire danger while the candles burned down to the icing. Kidding aside, Gisborne’s work included fire danger rating systems, prediction of fire behavior, fire weather forecasting, fire control strategy, fire control organizations, weather modification, fuels studies, and the application of fire retardants. His impact on the study and understanding of forest fires was so great, so marked, that his career span of 1922 to 1949 is known as the “‘Gisborne Era’ of forest fire research.”

Harry Gisborne, aka, "Gis"

Gisborne’s work and career are well documented: born in Vermont in 1893, he graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Forestry in 1917 and then briefly worked in Oregon as a timber cruiser before serving in World War I with the Tenth Engineers. He returned home and held a succession of research and staff positions before being assigned to the Northern Rocky Mountain Forest Experiment Station at Priest River, Idaho, in 1922. He quickly established a personal creed that guided his career and work: research was useless unless it addressed real problems and could produce results for immediate application. He spoke frequently with field foresters to understand “real problems” and turned out inventions, findings, and data that lived up to that creed. The fire danger meter he invented in 1939 led to the development of the National Fire Danger Rating System and made possible advances in understanding of fire meteorology, weather and lightning forecasting, fuel types and fuel moisture content, and fire behavior. Though the research data came from local sites near Priest River, his work had a national and even international impact.

This Fire Danger Meter Type 8-W is in the National Fire Danger Rating System Collection.

Gis’s many coworkers described him as sarcastic, outspoken, irascible, “and nearly as demanding of perfection from others as he was of himself. And yet, he inspired a legacy of devotion and fond memories that is truly remarkable…,” according to his biographer Mike Hardy (the biography, published by the U.S. Forest Service, is available through Google Books.) Gisborne himself said he was the burr under their tails that motivated them to do their best for him and science.

World War II brought a pause in his research and a corresponding drop in funds. But both accelerated after the war ended. The Forest Service’s obsession with fighting all fires under the 10 a.m. policy, which Gisborne opposed, ironically meant more funding and tools at his disposal. Surplus aircraft enabled experiments in aerial fire fighting and experiments in cloud seeding.

Ultimately, Gisborne’s hard-driving nature would lead to his demise and also forever link him to the tragic incident at Mann Gulch. Following the death of 13 smokejumpers and a forest guard in the August 1949 Mann Gulch fire, the Forest Service wanted to understand what happened there. Gisborne read all available reports on the incident before visiting the site on November 9, 1949. He wanted to walk through the burned area to see things for himself but was advised not to go into the rugged valley because of poor health. He collapsed there and died. Some say that he’s the 14th victim of the Mann Gulch fire.

The Harry Gisborne memorial marker in Mann Gulch is the first one encountered as you hike in from the Missouri River. (Courtesy of the author)

This marker stands at the spot where he died. But that’s not where Gisborne wanted to spend eternity. He had left instructions and a photo in his desk drawer indicating where he wanted his ashes spread—on a mountain near Priest River. A year later, the mountain was renamed in his honor and a brass memorial marker placed. It declares him a “Pioneer in Forest Fire Research.” Indeed, he was the last of that field’s pioneers and one of its greatest.

FHS has many resources on Harry Gisborne and his fire research. Most are found on our “U.S. Forest Service Fire Research” page. The National Fire Danger Rating System Collection holds materials collected between 1911 and 2004.

To learn more about Harry Gisborne, watch this film “short” from “The Greatest Good” documentary.

Read Full Post »

Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues here with Part 2 in which we examine the Guberif.

The Guberif“What the hell is a Guberif?”

Residents of Idaho began asking that question in 1950 when the Guberif first invaded their state’s forests. Rarely seen today, the Guberif is a creature that stalks the woods, leaving behind devastating forest fires in its wake. Commonly found throughout Idaho during the 1950s, the creature was mostly eradicated through a successful statewide “wanted dead or alive” hunting campaign. A sworn enemy of the forest, the infamous Guberif nonetheless developed a cult following, and still stands as one of the most unique characters in state history.

To fully understand the Guberif, we first need to go back to 1946, the year the Keep Idaho Green campaign was launched. The campaign was an extension of the Keep Green program that began in the state of Washington in 1940 to combat the growing number of catastrophic fires in the Pacific Northwest. The program quickly spread nationwide and other states began implementing their own forest fire prevention advertising campaigns under the Keep Green banner. By 1946 twelve states, including Idaho, had created their own official Keep Green organizations.

Keep Idaho Green logoThe driving force behind the creation of Keep Idaho Green was the Idaho State Junior Chamber of Commerce. Most of the Keep Idaho Green organization’s early executive committee members (composed of representatives from State, federal, and private interests) came from the Junior Chamber. Like other states with Keep Green programs, the Idaho organization designed and distributed educational materials such as posters, stickers, pamphlets, and displays boards, as well as short films and radio spots featuring messages of fire prevention.

Looking for a way to help differentiate their forest fire prevention campaign from that of other states, Keep Idaho Green invented a new character. First introduced in 1950, the “Guberif” was defined as a creature that starts fires in Idaho’s forests through acts of carelessness. The development of the character is credited to Richard A. Trzuskowski, who was publicity director for the Keep Idaho Green committee at the time.

Guberif postcard

One of the many Guberif postcards distributed by Keep Idaho Green, 1951.

Designed as an ugly winged insect, normally seen smoking a cigarette or pipe and sporting a clueless expression, the new Guberif character was plastered on posters and other items by the Keep Idaho Green organization during the next few years. In 1951 alone, more than 100,000 postcards featuring the Guberif were distributed in Idaho. In addition, 300 road surface signs bearing messages of fire prevention – and mentioning the Guberif – were painted on Idaho highways (some of which can still be found today in various parts of the state). A short film was even produced featuring the Guberif in a starring role.

Guberif road sign

Clarence Grone, director of the Rutledge Unit of Potlatch Forests at Coeur D’Alene, points out one of the new Keep Idaho Green road surface signs, 1952.

Derived from a relatively simple concept – the word “firebug” spelled backward – the character produced immediate reactions. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Six brand new photo galleries featuring more than 160 historic photos documenting various aspects of river log drives were added to our website today.  River drives were a standard way of moving large amounts of cut timber to sawmills during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, prior to the expansion and adoption of railroads and trucks for log transport.  Images of the men known as “river pigs” who worked on these drives, laboring to keep the rivers clear and the logs moving down the middle of the channel, are found in the Drivers gallery.

Other galleries contain images of Log Driver Equipment, Logs in the River, Splash Dams, and Wanigans.  (Wanigans were the floating cookhouses and supply rafts that moved downriver with the log drivers, keeping them fed and supplied with any needed items.)  Also included is a gallery of Log Jam photos, showing one of the many hazards of working a log drive.  While attempting to break large jams in the river, drivers risked falling, being crushed by logs, and drowning.

A large portion of the photos in these new galleries are of the Potlatch Corp. log drives which took place on a 90-mile stretch of the Clearwater River in northern Idaho.  The Clearwater River drives began in the late 1920s and ran nearly every spring until the final run in 1971, the last large-scale whitewater log drive in the U.S.  For more detailed information on the famed Clearwater River log drive, including a map of the route, see “Clearwater River Log Drives: A Photo Essay” from the Fall 2000 issue of Forest History Today.

Visit the new Log Drivers, Driver Equipment, Logs in River, Splash Dams, Wanigans, and Log Jams photo galleries, and for other topics, check out our previously posted subject galleries here.

Read Full Post »