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Central Washington University

Where There's Smoke: New MCE Exhibit Explores the Role of Fire in Kittitas County

Fire has a very real impact on our landscape, our community, and our lives. Central Washington University's Museum of Culture and Environment's newest exhibit, Where There's Smoke . . . Living with Fire, explores how fire has influenced our lives, from the plant life that thrives after a burn, to the way humans fight fires, to the lasting impact that ancient and recent fires have on our modern life. The exhibit will also allow the public to explore the science of fire and its relationship to our culture and environment.

The MCE will host an opening reception for this profound and timely exhibit at 5:00 p.m. October 10. There will be a presentation about traditional fire-making practices and flint knapping from local expert, Jim Baugh. Refreshments will be provided.

This exhibit was inspired by the 2012 wildland fire season and its impact on Kittitas County. The Taylor Bridge Fire, which became out of control in a matter of hours, consumed more than 60 homes and 23,000 acres. It was followed by the Table Mountain Fire, which burned more than 40,000 acres. Long after the last ember was extinguished, the fires continue to have a major impact on the community, wildlife, and the environment.

Where There’s Smoke provides a glimpse into the long history of fire in central Washington. Visitors can explore clues left by fires that took place thousands of years ago and learn about the role that fire played in the lives of Native American communities. The exhibit also features historical archives that reveal how fire regimes change with the arrival of industrialization, agriculture, and urbanization. Another part of the exhibit features powerful stories told by Kittitas County residents and firefighters who lived through and fought the recent catastrophic fires.

Where There’s Smoke will be open through March 22, 2014.

The MCE is located in Dean Hall on the CWU campus, 1200 N. D Street. The MCE is open Wednesday through Friday 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Parking is free on the CWU campus after weekdays after 4:30 p.m. and on weekends. For more information, contact or call 509-963-2313.

Media Contact: Mark Auslander, director, Museum of Culture and Environment, 509-963-3209,

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