At Yale Myers Forest, Work
Continues Despite Destructive Fire

camp kitchen and living room destroyed
© David Hobson
In the main building, which housed the living area and kitchen, only the chimney remains. The Class of 1980 pavilion, left, was not damaged by the fire.
Major programming and research at Yale Myers Forest — including orientation for incoming students — will continue largely as planned despite a devastating fire that destroyed three buildings at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ historic camp on May 28.
We have canceled a few programs, but it's still a pretty vigorous program that only a few years ago would have been considered a full program.
— Professor Mark Ashton
In just four days since the fire, which occurred over Memorial Day weekend, F&ES staff and faculty have already established plans for temporary housing and facilities to support research and management activities at the forest, located in northeastern Connecticut.
 
School leaders have also started discussions with Yale administrators to expedite the rebuilding of the lost facilities, which included a kitchen/living area, a bunkhouse, and a recently constructed classroom/dormitory.
 
“We’re going to keep going,” said F&ES Prof. Mark Ashton, director of the Yale Forests. “We have canceled a few programs, but it's still a pretty vigorous program that only a few years ago would have been considered a full program… This is going to continue. We haven’t lost our vision.”
Dinner bell from Yale Myers Forest camp
© David Hobson
The camp dinner bell survived the fire.
State and local officials meanwhile continue to investigate the cause of the fire, a three-alarm blaze that attracted firefighter crews from more than a dozen surrounding communities. There were no injuries.

F&ES Dean Peter Crane has made it a priority to proceed with the School’s traditional summer orientation, known as MODs, a three-week training period that has become a foundational experience for generations of students. All incoming masters students spend one of the three sessions at Yale Myers Forest, learning field skills and becoming acquainted with their classmates and F&ES.
 
But the Yale Myers camp is also home to research, training, and events throughout the year. Current research includes studies in forest ecology, stand dynamics and silviculture, plant physiological ecology, soil and ecosystem ecology, wetland and aquatic ecology, wildlife dynamics and community ecology, watershed management and stream hydrology, land-use history, and the economics of forest management.
 
It is also home to a forester apprenticeship program and the Quiet Corner Initiative (QCI), which links F&ES students and faculty with the work of private landowners, natural resource managers, and forest industry professionals to improve forestry practices in and around the forest.
By this time next year our intention is to be fully open for business with both new facilities and replacements for those destroyed.
— Dean Peter Crane
“This is a very sad and frustrating development for all those who have worked so hard to improve the Camp over the last several years, and especially for all those who use the Camp in their teaching and research,” Crane said. “Our intention is to build back as soon as possible, and to proceed with our plans to further improve the Camp for teaching and research for all Yale students.
 
“By this time next year our intention is to be fully open for business with both new facilities and replacements for those destroyed.”

Even before the fire, the School planned to build a new campus for field studies at the forest, which was made possible by alumni donations. A gift by Betty and Whitney MacMillan ’51 B.A. has enabled construction a new three-season “wet” laboratory with lab, classroom and storage space, and new field research plots.
 
In addition, the F&ES Class of 1980 recently committed the funds to build a timber-frame auditorium at the forest that will double classroom space and expand the capacity for events, meetings, and outreach with the surrounding communities.

(Inspired by another gift, from an alumnus from Yale College and F&ES, alumni are also raising funds to hire a new lecturer to teach ecology in the hands-on tradition of Tom Siccama, whose field lessons in the forests of New England, including at Yale Myers, inspired generations of students. Other recent gifts have expanded the QCI and established a new summer fellowship program for field ecology and natural history, as well as competitive research fellowships.)

In the days since the fire, hundreds of F&ES alums and students contacted Ashton, many saying that their hearts were broken by the news.
 
“I wanted to say to them, ‘Look, don't worry,’” Ashton said. “They were thinking of me, they were thinking of the forest. But I let them know this is going to be resurrected in full force.”
Located in the towns of Ashford, Eastford, Union and Woodstock, Conn., Yale Myers Forest is a center for educational programs, research, and demonstration in sustainable forest management. At 7,840 acres, it is the largest of the seven School-own forests and the single largest piece of property used for educational purposes by Yale University. 
Yale Myers camp building destroyed by fire
© David Hobson
In the main building, which housed the living area and kitchen, only the chimney remains. The Class of 1980 pavilion, right, was not damaged by the fire.
the remains of three camp buildings destroyed by fire
© David Hobson
The remains of the old bunkhouse stand in the foreground. The chimney of the main building is visible on the far right.
roofing material
© David Hobson
Firefighting crews used an excavator to remove the metal roofing material after the flames were extinguished.
11 David Hobson Manual web
© David Hobson
partially burned Journal of Foresty
© David Hobson
– Kevin Dennehy    kevin.dennehy@yale.edu    203 436-4842
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PUBLISHED: June 1, 2016
 

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