To recover direct evidence of surface fires before European settlement, we sectioned fire-scarred logging-era stumps and trees in 39 small, physically isolated sand patches along the Great Lakes coast of northern Michigan and northern Wisconsin. While much information was lost to postharvest fire and stump deterioration, 147 fire-free intervals revealed in cross-sections from 29 coastal sand patches document numerous close interval surface fires before 1910; only one post-1910 fire was documented. Cross-sections from the 10 sections with records spanning >150 yr suggest local fire occurrence rates before 1910 ca. 10 times the present rate of lightning-caused fire. Since fire spread between or into coastal sand patches is rare, and seasonal use of the patches by Native people before 1910 is well documented, both historically and ethnographically, ignition by humans probably accounts for more than half of the pre-1910 fires recorded in cross-sections.
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Human versus lightning ignition of presettlement surface fires in costal pine forests of the upper Great Lakes