An unprecedented moment in the fire ecology of the Blue Ridge Mountains occurred in Autumn 2016 when severe drought, frequent anthropogenic ignitions, and seasonality in disturbed deciduous forests fueled widespread burning. As the wildfires burned, wildland firefighters from around the U.S. temporarily moved into the region to assist local land managers. As wildfire risks increased and air quality decreased, local residents became increasingly interested in fire ecology. The community shifted continuously as wildfires were extinguished, wildland firefighters returned home, and local residents disengaged. In conducting research during the conflagration, obtaining consent from community members varied depending on whether or not I had previously worked with and taken the “first steps” towards establishing ethical relationships with individual community members. In this presentation I discuss how best ethics practices fluctuate relative to shifts in the composition of human communities and the character of human-forest interactions.
Fowler, Cynthia. 2017. Initiating Researching on Igniting Fires in the Blue Ridge Mountains During the Autumn 2016 Conflagration. Paper presented at the 40th Annual Society of Ethnobiology Conference. Montreal, Canada.