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For thousands of years, fire has been used by indigenous people to manage landscapes be it prairies, oak savannas, or forests. As landscapes were colonized, the management of landscape through burning practices of the North American landscape was stifled, a move that made forest fires increasingly destructive leading to more fear and avoidance of fire in such programs as the National Forest Service’s “Smokey the Bear” campaign.

While indigenous tribes have long known it to be the case, only in recent decades has been a more widespread growth of awareness and recognition that such burning practices are beneficial not only to reduce the destructive potential of forest fires, but also to manage different habitats and ecosystems. The UMN Cloquet Forestry Center (CFC) has likewise recognized the importance of fire and with the Fond du Lac tribal members and the Nature Conservancy, began to bring fire management back to parts of the CFC forest. 

The "Designing Fire" Workshop at the UMN Cloquet Forestry Center aimed to explore the fire management process of using burn piles to reduce the forest fuel load before larger burns and considered their design, implementation, and documentation more carefully along the Old Growth Canopy Trail. To that end, this workshop is focused on collective design explorations surrounding the process and control of burning a fire, materials and fuel, placement and orchestration, and documentation and implementation as relational opportunities.


The workshop consisted of two parts. Part One: Designing a Small Object to Burn explored objects designed to control one particular aspect of the fire such as flame height, speed of burn, fire color, residue, sound, or temperature. Part Two: Burn Pile Design and Implementation applied some of these findings in a collective burn pile along the Old Growth Canopy Trail.



Additional Resources

Link to UMN College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Webpage: Restoring Fire to the Cloquet Forestry Center


Link to UMN College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Storymap: The Camp 8 Stand


All Work Produced by Workshop Participants:


Karen Lutsky

Guest Designers
Jamie Vanucchi (Cornell University)
Sean Burkholder (University of Pennsylvania)
Kyle Franta (TEN X TEN, UMN Alum)
Brett Stolpestad (Washington County Conservation District, UMN Alum +Instructor)

UMN Cloquet Forestry Center Partners
Kyle Gill, Forest Manager and Research Coordinator
Lane Johnson, Research Forester
Rachael Olesiak, Research Plot Coordinator

UMN Students
Nicole DelPizzo
Zeni Flauta
Addie Hayden-Sofio
Cassidy Johnson
Emily Morton
Greta Mundt
Izzy Wilde

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