Caitlin Eliza McKenna

“One just can’t forget!”: Wildland Fire and Historic Preservation in the Colorado Front Range

The town of Gold Hill, Colorado has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1989. This designation is based on the town’s built historical resources, which are altogether excellent examples of the communities that sprang up around Colorado’s precious metal mining industries in the mid-nineteenth century. In 2010, the town was nearly destroyed by the Fourmile Canyon Fire. “One just can’t forget!” investigates the reactions to that fire in the context of the community’s sense of history. It argues that wildland fire is a long-ignored historical actor, influencing the town’s physical appearance and binding the community together against a common foe, therefore strengthening the community and reinforcing its ties to local history. Furthermore, it analyzes the main modes of public history practice and recommends ways to incorporate wildland fire into those practices.

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Photo by Annie Spratt