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Dave Mace and Dottie Dunham


Wild Fire Hook

"Only you can prevent wild fires." 
  - Smokey Bear

     For over fifty years we have been told that wild fires can be prevented.  However, in recent years there have been more fires.  Millions of acres have burned.   Most people blame the weather.  They say it is hotter, drier, and there is less rain. Perhaps there are other reasons.
  • Is there a way to prevent wild fires?
  • Are wild fires increasing?
Explore the following websites for to learn more about wild fires. 

To generate interest and motivate students the teacher should read a recent newspaper article about wild fires.  Such as, There is an answer to our wildfire problem.    After reading the article the teacher will lead a class discussion. This discussion should be made to help build background knowledge and to give students time to generate questions. 


Students might ask similar but different questions than those listed here. The more students are guided to ask specific questions, the less inquiry-oriented the activity.

  • What causes wild fires?
  • What are some misconceptions about wild fires?
  • Are wild fires a natural occurrence? Or are humans contributing to them?
  • How is fire beneficial?  How is fire harmful?
  • Has there been an increase in wild fires in recent years?
There might be a list of sub-questions that will be asked as well.
  • Why is there an increase?
  • Why are they beneficial?  Harmful?
  • Describe differences in acreage burned in the past compared to recent years?


Students could be divided in groups of two.  They could choose a state and explore the number of acres burned in recent years and in the past.  They might then create a spreadsheet to present this data.  Then they couldl develop a plan to prevent fires in their chosen state. 

Type(s) of Data

  • newspaper articles
  • magazines
  • websites

Defining How Data Will be Manipulated and Presented

Students will be designing their own fire prevention plans.  As they do so the will likely use the following tools:

  • Spreadsheets
  • Concept mapping sofware such as Inspiration
  • Presentation software such as Powerpoint
Defining Important Terms 

Restoration Forestry (click on the link for definition)
Fuel- Anything consumable by fire.

Fire Cycle (click on the link for a poster showing the fire cycle)

Investigation Tool(s)

Create a concept map or KWL chart 

Manipulating Data

If a KWL is being used, after each document is investigated students should reexamine what they know, what they want to know, and what they have learned. 

If they are using a concept map, they should begin with the fire cycle and after each document is investigated they should add to or alter their chart accordingly. 

Data Investigation

There is often a giant leap from defining the type(s) of data desired and actually finding the data. Providing guidance to students in finding the necessary data may be necessary.

Limiting this activity to the websites provided should provide the necessary resources. However, students are encouraged to explore other sites and alternative articles to aid in their research.

Wild Fire Information

Smokey the Bear - History

California Department of Forestry and FIRE

National Fire Plan-Managing the impact of Wildfires

Prescribed burns

Wild Fire Prevention Resources

Prefire Management - California

Yellowstone Fire Information


Raw data/information usually has to be manipulated before it can answer any questions. Students might be unaware of how data can best be manipulated, so teacher guidance may be appropriate.

When creating a concept maps students could add/delete/rearrange as they explore each website.  If not creating a concept map, they could take notes using 3x5 cards.  The concept maps or note cards will help organize their research and aid them with their presentations. If using a concept map, it should look something like this:


Likely students will need to create a graph showing the number of acres burned for three different years. The graph might look like this:


No result is meaningful unless communicated appropriately. Discussion of findings should be supported. There may or may not be definitive answers to the questions students raised. 

Students could present their fire plans and manipulated data to the class in a variety of ways, such as:

  • A poster session of do's and don'ts when camping, etc.
  • A videotaped commercial explaining how to prevent fires
  • Fliers or newsletters created and sent to local residents explaining how to prevent fires
  • PowerPoint or other multimedia presentations

Possible New Questions

Answers often lead to new questions, starting the inquiry cycle over again.

The following are questions students might ask and wish to investigate at a later time:

  • Are forest firest increasing or decreasing in other parts of the world?
  • What happens to people who are caught starting forest fires?
  • Etc.