Historic newsreels about wildland fire

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Daniel Godwin was kind enough to send us information about numerous historic newsreels about wildland fire that have been converted to digital videos. The short films that we list below are a small portion of the 85,000 recorded by British Pathé  between 1896 and 1976 that were recently posted on YouTube.

In case you are not familiar with newsreels, here is how they are described on Wikipidia:

newsreel is a form of short documentary film prevalent in the first half of the twentieth century, regularly released in a public presentation place and containing filmed news stories and items of topical interest. It was a source of news, current affairs, and entertainment for millions of moviegoers until television supplanted its role in the 1950s. Newsreels are now considered significant historical documents, since they are often the only audiovisual record of historical and cultural events of those times.

Newsreels were typically featured as short subjects preceding the main feature film into the 1960s. There were dedicated newsreel theaters in many major cities in the 1930s and 1940s, and some large city cinemas also included a smaller theaterette where newsreels were screened continuously throughout the day.

British Pathé’s YouTube channel with the 85,000 videos can be found here.

Below we have embedded four of the videos, and below those are links to others about wildland fire.

Minnesota burning, 1936:

NorCal, 1965:

French Riviera, 1957:

Bremerton, 1938, using US Navy for suppression:


Thanks Daniel!

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “Historic newsreels about wildland fire”

  1. Imagine, not one word about climate change in any of them! Contrast that to the agenda of the “Years of living Dangerously” Showtime films…

    1. Joseph, the main point of your comment was vague, but if you are saying that climate change does not exist, it is not a serious problem, or we should not take action to mitigate it, then, sorry, but the science regarding climate change was settled 10 years ago. It IS a serious problem and society needs to take action soon or it will continue to get much worse, threatening our current way of life — on the one planet that we have to live on.

      And yes, the entire purpose of the “Years of living Dangerously” Showtime docu-series is to unapologetically “explore the issues of climate change” and its human impact. We wrote about the series HERE and HERE.

      We strive to deal with facts at Wildfire Today.


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