Placed-based fire management planning that considers historical patterns and processes as well as contemporary local knowledge is recognized as an alternative to broad-scale, regional approaches. In this paper, we used dendrochronology and an online survey to assess historical trends and contemporary perceptions of wildfire, respectively, in the fire-prone anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania. We developed an annual index of fire occurrence and extent from 216 fire-scarred pitch pine (Pinus rigida
) distributed across 9 ridgetop study sites for the period 1900–2016. In addition, we collected survey responses from area residents regarding contemporary perceptions of wildfire hazards and management. Our results show that 20th century wildfire activity was not associated with drought, but closely followed fluctuations in the anthracite coal industry, with increased fire occurrence and extent associated with times of severe job losses. Less extensive wildfire continues to occur frequently, with area residents recognizing the need for fuel management (i.e., prescribed fire) and an increase in resources allocated to wildfire prevention and management as well as trash disposal and recycling programs. Our research represents one example of an integrated approach to informing sustainable fire management that considers the link between historical patterns and contemporary perceptions.
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