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Remembering a Mushroom Cloud

August 29, 2015
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Here are some sobering reflections on forest fires in August in the Pacific Northwest by historian Joseph E. Taylor III of Simon Fraser University.

BlogWest

by Joseph E. Taylor III

I come from a place that knew what a mushroom cloud looked like well before Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Alamogordo. That place is called the Nestucca Valley, but the relevant landscape is known more simply as “The Tillamook.” The relevant date is August 24, 1933. The relevant image is this:

US Forest Service, View of Tillamook Fire, Oregon from airplane, August 1933, National Archives US Forest Service, View of Tillamook Fire, Oregon from airplane, August 1933, National Archives

The story is well known. On blistering hot day in mid-August 1933, a slash fire erupted on a logging operation in the Gales Creek watershed of Washington County, Oregon. The fire immediately ran out of control and into the Tillamook Bay watershed, consuming sixty-three square miles of old growth.

Then a blanket of fog mercifully quelled the flames. Trees still smoked, however, and in the early morning of the 24th a convergence of natural forces turned what had been a bad…

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