Burr Oak, Iowa

This week I am taking a research trip to some of the places where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived. I thought I’d process some of what I’ve learned by blogging about it.

Yesterday, I drove from Chicagoland to Burr Oak, Iowa, in the northeastern corner of the state. The Ingalls family lived in this town for right around a year, from fall 1876 to 1877. Laura was 9-10 years old. Their time in Burr Oak is not mentioned in any of Little House books; it comes in the lost years between the end of On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake.

In some ways, the family’s time in Burr Oak was the nadir of Laura’s childhood. The Ingalls family had lost their home in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, because of the locust plague. They had then moved to southeastern Minnesota to live with extended family for a short period of time. Their youngest child and only son Charles Frederick (everyone called him Freddie) got sick and died there. Then they moved to Burr Oak, where Charles Ingalls briefly worked for the Steadman family, owners of a hotel named the Burr Oak House or the Masters Hotel. Ma made meals for the guests and boarders, and Mary and Laura served them. Later, Charles worked for a feed mill. The family remained in debt. There was a saloon right next to the hotel, and the young girls were exposed to lawlessness and immorality.

Burr Oak was founded in 1850, before the Civil War. By the late 1870s, it was a town that the railroad passed by; instead stagecoaches rolled through Burr Oak to take people to railway stations. As a result, the community’s best years were behind it. It could no longer support two hotels, and the Steadmans sold Masters Hotel and moved to southern Iowa late in 1877. Finally, Burr Oak was very small when the Ingalls lived there – about 200 people. (It is smaller today; my tour guide said its population is about 169.)

The building that was the Masters Hotel still stands. After more than a hundred years as a private residence, it was purchased in 1973 and opened as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum in 1976. It is unique in that it is the only one of Laura’s childhood homes that still stands on the same site. Like the other Ingalls and Wilder homes in existence (Almanzo’s childhood home near Malone, New York, the Surveyors House in De Smet, South Dakota, and the two houses on the farm near Mansfield, Missouri), the building is very small. It is hard to believe that it served as a hotel. The main floor has a barroom and parlors, the Steadmans’ room, and a wealthy permanent boarder’s room. In the upstairs there are four rooms – three for hotel guests and one for another permanent boarder. The stagecoach driver slept right at the top of the steps. Finally, there is a downstairs that has the kitchen, dining room, and a kitchen bedroom where the Ingalls family slept. The building is built into a hill, so that the main floor opens onto the main street and the downstairs opens onto the back yard which runs down to a small creek. With the exception of the downstairs dining room, I don’t think that any of the rooms in the building is larger than twelve by twelve feet. The Steadmans and Ingalls families had five members each, all sleeping in one small room.

The Ingalls family only lived in the hotel for several months. Then they moved to an apartment upstairs of the grocery store, two doors down from the hotel (on the other side of the saloon). Several months later, after a fire at the saloon, they moved several blocks away to a rented house. It was there that Laura’s youngest sister Grace was born.

Laura’s memoir Pioneer Girl has a section on Burr Oak, even though the Little House books do not. There are stories of local young men getting drunk at the saloon and harming others and themselves. Also during this year, a local wealthy couple offered to adopt Laura. She and Mary did have good experiences attending school with Mr. Reed, a good teacher, elocutionist, and disciplinarian. Laura also tells of visiting the cemetery to get some solitude.

When the Ingalls lived in Burr Oak, they attended the Congregational Church. There was also a Methodist Church. The year after they left, a Seventh Day Adventist Church was built. The Congregational Church building was moved to a different part of town in 1907 and used as a private residence. However, the church bell was sent to a Friends (Quaker) church in Hesper, Iowa, about five miles away. The Hesper Friends Church has since closed, but the bell has been given to the Wilder Park and Museum, which while I was there was having a small enclosure built next to the Hotel building so that visitors can hear it ring.

It was good for me to have a view of the hotel and its surroundings for when I write the chapter on Burr Oak and Walnut Grove. I was also able to see the site where the Congregational Church stood. The Methodist Church building has been renovated and added onto, but the shell is what stood here in the late 1800s. And the Advent Christian Church building is also now is owned by the Wilder Park and Museum. Director Barb Olson opened that building so that I could see the inside of it.

The last thing I did before getting on the road was visit the Burr Oak Cemetery. There I saw a number of gravestones from the late 1800s. I was walking where Laura Ingalls Wilder once walked, looking at the landscape that she once saw. While that landscape has changed in many ways in the nearly 150 years since she lived there, I did feel a powerful sense of connection to the past and to her life.

Many thanks to Barb and Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum workers Anastacia, Anna, and Kelly! Also, if you’re reading this and live within striking distance of northeastern Iowa and don’t have plans for this weekend, consider going to Burr Oak for the Laura Days Celebration. It starts Friday evening and and includes a 5k race, live musical entertainment, food, games for the kids, and a Little Miss Laura and Young Almanzo contest.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to make comments.


The Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum

Support the Park and Museum by buying stuff at their store

Laura Days

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

My blog post on Pioneer Girl



Pulitzer Prize

Faculty members are on summer break here at Trinity, so my job has slowed down a bit. I’m not actually on break yet, because I’m a Dean and have an extended contract. But I have been able to carve out some time to write. I’m also planning for a trip to, Lord-willing, four Laura Ingalls Wilder sites this summer (Burr Oak, Pepin, Walnut Grove, and De Smet).

Yesterday, I told a colleague who stopped by my office that Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder had been awarded the Pulitzer prize for Biography. He asked me when and I said about a month ago. He then asked whether I had put this information on my blog. I said no, and that the information was available from dozens of sites. He told me that I still should put it on my blog, because perhaps someone would learn about it from me the way he did. So here I am, putting it on my blog.

Congratulations are due to Caroline. She put years of work into the book, and she has rightly been basking in the attention of the media for the last several weeks.

More later this summer. Thanks for reading.


My post on Prairie Fires

The announcement at pulizer.org


A Prairie Girl’s Faith

At the beginning of 2018, I mentioned at the end of my post on Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires that I might be posting less often this semester because I hoped to be writing the first chapter of my book. When I looked at the blog and saw that the last entry was uploaded on February 23, I realized that the first part of that statement was true. Unfortunately, the second part is not – I have been swamped by grading and administrative work here at Trinity Christian College this semester. It’s good work, but it’s not work on the book.

However, lately I was able to read Stephen Hines’s A Prairie Girl’s Faith: The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I learned last summer that this book was coming out, and it made me nervous. This was right when I was hoping to get a book contract from Eerdmans. Would his project steal my thunder? Would Hines say everything I had to say? I believed at the time that I would approach the subject of Wilder’s faith in a much different way than Hines would, but I was not sure. As it turns out, I did not need to be anxious. A Prairie Girl’s Faith is not the book that I would write or that I hope to write.

Stephen Hines has described himself as a “literary prospector” who looks for unpublished works by famous writers that are not under copyright and therefore can be collected and republished. Hines has been editing books of Wilder’s writing since the early 1990s. Most of these book have reprinted collections of Wilder’s articles in the Missouri Ruralist. The most complete of these books is Laura Ingalls Wilder: Farm Journalist, from 2007. He also published Saving Graces: The Inspirational Writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1997. I have written blog posts on both of these books.

A Prairie Girl’s Faith is not a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is not a scholarly examination of the nature of Wilder’s faith either. It is more a collection of Hines’s reflections and observations about aspects of Wilders’ life and writings. Most of these reflections have to do with Wilder’s faith, though he also engages the relationship between Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane and their literary collaboration on the Little House books. Since I hope to write a scholarly biography that examines the nature of Wilder’s faith, I was relieved to discover this. This also means that I should judge the book that Hines wrote, not the book that he didn’t write.

On these terms, the book includes some good insights. Hines has read the Little House books many times. He details how he first found them as a child in rural Kansas and also how he read them aloud to his wife in the kitchen during their early marriage. He knows the Little House books inside and out. He has also read Wilder’s recently published memoir Pioneer Girl and other important works about Wilder and Rose by William Anderson, John Miller, Pamela Smith Hill, William Holtz, and Dale Cockrell. He engages the many ways that the Little House books mention faith, especially descriptions of Sunday School, church worship services, and hymns sung by the Ingalls family. Hines’s extensive familiarity with Wilder’s Missouri Ruralist articles is also clear throughout the book.

Several chapters treat Wilder’s childhood, as described in the Little House books. Several chapters engage the relationship between Laura and Rose and the writing of the books. There is a chapter on the hymns referenced in the Little House books. And there is a chapter of recipes from Caroline Ingalls and other women from De Smet taken from a cookbook published in 1915.

The book also provides some background information about the Congregational Churches in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and De Smet, South Dakota. An Appendix on De Smet reproduces some articles from the De Smet News and the Kingsbury County News about churches in De Smet. I had never seen these articles before, so they were very helpful.

Hines correctly notes that the central values of Laura and Rose were not the same, and he understands that Rose’s collaboration in the publishing of the Little House books may have shaped how those works depict Christianity. He writes in one chapter,

In fact, it is possible that Rose may have tried to downplay her mother’s faith in the Little House books. For example, in Laura’s original Pioneer Girl manuscript she spoke several times about asking for forgiveness for wrongdoing. But this act of contrition did not show up as many times in the Little House series. However, admittedly, that subtle difference may provide scant actual proof. (62)

As I have written in other blog posts, I believe that Rose did shape the depictions of Christianity in the Little House books. However, the evidence I use is the comparison of Laura’s original manuscripts of Farmer Boy and On the Banks of Plum Creek and the final published works. So I think that there is more evidence (I prefer using “evidence” to “proof”) for these changes than Hines does. But I think his observation is insightful, especially since he is just comparing Pioneer Girl to the Little House books.

The concluding chapter is titled “What Laura Means to Us.” Hines’s summary reads, “I like to think we can still learn lessons from Laura’s accumulated experience and reflection, among which is tolerance for other’s failings, courage to start all over again after disaster strikes, and a belief that God holds the future in his hands and intends no ill will for his children.” (158) I agree that these are lessons that one can learn from the Little House books, and I appreciate this clear and pithy assessment of some aspects of their abiding value.

Unfortunately, at times the book presents accounts from the Little House books as if they are literal descriptions of what happened during Wilder’s childhood, the same as accounts from Pioneer Girl. But it seems clear to me that the descriptions and narratives in the Little House books were formed and shaped in a multitude of ways for a number of different reasons. Some of the shaping is for narrative purposes. Some of the shaping has to do with audience. Some of the shaping, I believe, was done by Rose and not by Laura. So I would find Pioneer Girl to be a much more reliable source than the Little House books for how Laura experienced faith.

I also find it striking that the book does not mention Laura’s most clear description of an experience of God’s presence. As a child in Walnut Grove, she describes “One night while saying my prayers, as I always did before going to bed, this feeling of homesickness and worry was worse than usual, but gradually I had a feeling of a hovering, encompassing Presence of a Power, comforting and sustaining and thought in surprise ‘This is what men call God!’” (Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, ed. by Pamela Smith Hill, [Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2014], 137) Hines mentioned this account in the introduction of Saving Graces. I was shocked that it is not included in this volume.

Finally, the book often presents Christianity as “Christian values” or the “values of hearth and home.” For instance, when arguing that Laura should be credited with supplying the central themes of the books, not Rose, Hines asserts “And whatever else they are, Laura’s books are a story about building a home in the wilderness; they are not about raw nature itself, however raw that nature can be. No, the Christian family values of the books are overwhelming. The sacredness of home and hearth are everywhere present.” (69) Admittedly, in other parts of the book Hines does assert that Laura did have a personal relationship with God through Christ. In my work on Wilder, I hope to press more consistently beyond vaguer notions of values Wilder’s relationship to the gospel of sin and salvation in Christ.

Still, I’m grateful to Hines for raising some of the issues I hope to address in my book, and for pointing me in some new directions in terms of sources. Thanks for reading.

(Quotes are from Stephen W. Hines, A Prairie Girl’s Faith: The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder [New York: Waterbrook, 2018].)


Doing fewer blog posts this semester

Trinity Christian College

Book contract from Eerdmans

Hines as Literary Prospector; also here

Post on Saving Graces: The Inspirational Writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Post on Laura Ingalls Wilder: Farm Journalist

Post on Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

Post on Rose’s shaping of the depiction of Christianity in the Little House books

The Last Puritans

During the last several weeks, I have been able to read historian Margaret Bendroth’s The Last Puritans: Mainline Protestants and the Power of the Past. Bendroth is the director of the Congregational Library and Archives in Boston. I have heard her speak at events sponsored by the Conference on Faith and History. She is a careful historian and an eloquent speaker. The Last Puritans is a history of Congregational Churches in the U. S. A. during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I wanted to read it because Laura Ingalls Wilder attended Congregational Churches in Walnut Grove, Minnesota and De Smet, South Dakota. Her parents, Charles and Caroline Ingalls, were also lifelong members of Congregational Churches.

I am a member and a Ruling Elder in a small Presbyterian denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). The OPC is a confessional church, holding to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as doctrinal statements that accurately explain what the Bible says on most questions of faith and life. I also see myself as an Evangelical, sharing characteristics with many other contemporary Christians who believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word, that Jesus Christ is God come to earth to die for the sins of His people, and that Christians’ responsibility in the world is to preach the gospel and lead a life in accordance with God’s word. As a result, I admit that it is difficult for me to understand the approach of most liberal, mainline Protestant churches, including the Presbyterian Church, U. S. A., the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the United Church of Christ (UCC). Since 1957, the UCC is one of the successor denominations to the Congregational Church associations described in Bendroth’s book; the UCC is the subject of its last chapter. It seems to me that these churches downplay Biblical doctrines and historic confessions in order to pursue progressive social causes. I see them as rejecting the historic Christian faith. This means that it can be difficult for me to appreciate the decisions made by the leaders and members of those churches in the past, and it can be hard for me to understand the Christianity experienced by people in those churches today. Bendroth’s book is a help in this area.

The Last Puritans describes the leaders and members of American Congregational Churches during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as being extremely interested in their history. Congregationalists trace their roots to the Pilgrims and Puritans who migrated to New England during the early 1600s. However, the way that they remembered their Pilgrim ancestors changed over time. By the 1800s, they mainly remembered the independent, liberty-loving side of the Pilgrims, and their establishment of churches where local autonomy was fiercely defended. Nineteenth Century Congregationalists also told stories about the Pilgrims and Puritans that emphasized their toleration of other Christians. The result was that for many, their vision of their history led to downplaying of doctrinal distinctives, including the Calvinism that animated their Pilgrim and Puritan forebears. At the turn of the twentieth century, Congregationalists also began to historicize their ancestors, viewing them not as kindred spirits but as strikingly different. Twentieth century churchgoers emphasized the spirit of their forebears while rejecting many of their beliefs. This led them to support union with other churches and an embrace of the Social Gospel and Progressivism.

Bendroth concludes that while Congregationalists came to doubt many stories in the Bible were factually true, they decided to remain in the church anyway. “Protestant Liberalism is… about people who learned to live with ambiguities, who chose to believe without demanding certainties.” (194) She gives examples from both church leaders and ordinary church members who exemplify this willingness to let go of the factual nature of the Bible but remain in the church. This would not be the choice that I would make, but I think that I understand a little better why they made it.

Does this understanding of the history of Congregationalism contribute to a better understanding of Laura Ingalls Wilder? Perhaps. Perhaps Wilder’s upbringing in Congregational Churches shaped her understanding of what church should be. Assuming that a Methodist Church in the border south was more Evangelical than a Congregational Church in the upper Midwest, perhaps that is why she never joined the Methodist Church in Mansfield, Missouri, even though she attended there for over sixty years. There also may be some connections between Congregationalists’ memory of the Pilgrims’ love of liberty and Wilder’s devotion to liberty, as well as that of her father and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. I’m going to continue to ruminate on this as I start writing soon.

Thanks for reading.

(Quote is from The Last Puritans: Mainline Protestants and the Power of the Past [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015].)


The Last Puritans

Congregational Library and Archives

The Conference on Faith and History



Pioneer Girl Perspectives Review

Well, last Friday I was mentioned that I might not blog as much this semester, and here I am posting a week later. . .

Last year I wrote a review of Pioneer Girl Perspectives, a book of essays from the South Dakota State Historical Society (SDSHS), for The Annals of Iowa, a historical journal published by the Iowa State Historical Society.  The Annals gave permission to the Pioneer Girl Project of the SDSHS to reproduce that review on their website:  https://pioneergirlproject.org/2018/01/25/a-worthy-companion-review-of-pioneer-girl-perspectives/

It’s slightly briefer than my blog post on the book.  Thought you might be interested.  Best wishes.

Other links:

My blog post on Pioneer Girl Perspectives

The Annals of Iowa


Prairie Fires

Happy 2018. I hope that everyone’s year has begun well.

This week I finished Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I had started in the middle of December, but Christmas intervened. It is an excellent book. Fraser has read just about everything there is to read by and about Wilder, and she provides an interpretation of all of it. She has read Wilder’s published works, all the extant manuscripts of the Little House books, and pretty much all of the books that have been written about Wilder. She also appears to have read all of Rose Wilder Lane’s materials as well, which is quite a feat—Lane often kept a detailed diary, and she typed reams of letters to friends, published dozens of articles in newspapers and magazines, and wrote a number of books. Eighty of the Prairie Fires’s six hundred pages are footnotes. It is clearly the most up to date and exhaustively researched biography of Wilder published.

But the book strives to do more than just chronicle the lives and works of Laura and Rose. It sets those lives in the contexts of American national history. Fraser provides detailed descriptions of the Dakota War of 1862, the Homestead Act, and the settlement of the upper Midwest by white Americans. She argues that these events both shaped and were reflected in Wilder’s life and works. The book also considers how World War I, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II impacted Wilder’s writing of the Little House books (they were published between 1932 and 1943). John Miller’s book Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder does some of this contextualization, but Fraser’s work is more comprehensive.

In a nutshell, Fraser’s interpretation of the settlement of the upper Midwest and Great Plains is that thousands of families created an environmental catastrophe. The land and climate in many places could not sustain small farmers, but they attempted to make a go of it anyway, spurred on by advertising and scientific ideas (like “rain follows the plow”) that led to marginal existence and misery for many. Many were forced to take jobs in town or rely on the support of others, including church, the local community, and the state and federal government. But government leaders often withheld support, and those who took it were often ashamed. The Ingalls and Wilder families were two of those families.

Fraser also attempts to understand how both Laura and Rose thought. She both allows their own words to speak for themselves and provides her own views of their actions. Laura is depicted as a woman hardened by misfortune but determined to provide for her family. She loved nature and everything in it, and she who ultimately created a literary masterpiece for children. Her detailed descriptions, her understanding of her own life and the characters she interacted with, and her love for her father all make the Little House books juvenile classics. By hard work she secured her family’s economic security.

The book’s depiction of Rose is much less positive. Throughout she is described as mixing the truth and fiction: in her articles for “yellow” newspapers during the 1910s and 1920s, in her fictional “biographies” of great men, in her work with her mother’s life story, and in her personal correspondence. She was never able to manage money, and she suffered from depression and perhaps deeper mental illness. By the end of her life she had let her libertarian ideology take over her understanding of reality. Fraser gives Lane credit for editing and improving the Little House books, making them possible to publish and memorable, but Wilder’s writing is seen as driving the books’ popularity and staying power.

Overall, Prairie Fires is a super book. Fraser’s writing is simple but powerful. She evokes the past well and sets Wilder and Lane in that past for us to consider. Its scope is encyclopedic. I am happy that it appeared while I am beginning to write my book so that I can use it in that effort.

As far as Wilder’s faith is concerned, the book focuses most on religion in the early chapters where Charles Ingalls’s ancestors are described. They were Puritans; one had come to Massachusetts Bay with John Endecott in 1629, one was executed during the witch craze in Salem in 1692 (Martha Ingalls Allen Carrier), and one wrote poetry that was published locally in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Of the latter, Samuel Ingalls, the self-described “unlearned poet,” the book says that he “was a Puritan and may have been a Congregationalist.” (32) I am not sure that Fraser understands the relationship between Puritans and Congregationalists. In terms of church governance, all Puritans were Congregationalists. By the late 1700s, I believe that the term Congregationalist was used for most of the the churches in New England founded by the Puritans of the 1600s. I have a book on Congregationalism by Margaret Bendroth (The Last Puritans: Mainline Protestants and the Power of the Past, [University of North Carolina, 2015]) that I hope will help me get everything straight.

Beyond that, there is not a lot of attention to Laura and Rose’s faith in the body of the book. This is probably partially because Wilder says little about her Christian beliefs in her writings. In addition, Laura and Rose’s religious outlook is not really primary to Fraser’s understanding of the two women. She considers their economic situation, their physical health, and their relationships with each other in much more detail (and again, they have the benefit of greater documentation, especially in Rose’s writings). Interestingly, Fraser returns to Puritanism at the end of the book to help explain why Laura firmly believed that individuals and families could make it without government assistance, even though her parents’ family and her own family were not able to:

Wilder wrote that her mother was fond of a saying: “What’s bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.” If anything was bred in her family’s Congregationalist bones, it was their exemplary devotion to self-sufficiency… Puritan identity was based on redemption through mastery of self, and the rigid application of principles including frugality, diligence, and, above all, independence. (455)

I’m pretty sure that Seventeenth Century Puritans and Eighteenth Century Congregationalists would not have agreed with this description. They believed in redemption on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ alone. They taught that those who repent and trust in Christ for salvation must also work to discipline their bodies by cultivating these virtues. But those virtues were not the basis of their salvation.

I relate these disagreements with Fraser’s interpretations not because I think that they mar the book as a whole. Indeed, I think that Fraser understands Laura better than many other writers. Prairie Fires is a monument to years of work in the archives, thousands of hours of thinking about how best to understand the sources, and writing ability that I know that I can’t match. I am glad that I am not setting out to write a book of this scope. In the book that I am setting out to write, however, I hope to provide a better understanding of this one aspect of Laura’s life—her faith—and to explain what it might tell us about the history of American Christianity. In some ways, I think that all scholars are comforted when they find that they disagree in some way with other authors, because disagreements show that there is still something that can be added to the conversation.

I may not be writing very much for the blog this spring. It is my hope to write a chapter of the book, and I think that staying off of the blog may assist me in doing this. (See Cal Newport’s book Deep Work for an explanation of why I believe that this may be the case.) I am also teaching two sections of Western Civilization, which means I have 75 students’ papers to grade when they start coming in at the end of next week. I will see if I am able to give reports perhaps once a month.

Thanks again for reading.

(Quotations are from Caroline Fraser, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder [New York: Metropolitan Books, 2017].)

Link: Prairie Fires


Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life

Time is running out on 2018. I only have time for one more blog post this year.

I read a fun book in the last several weeks: Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life, a young adult novel by Shelley Tougas. It’s about a twelve-year-old whose family moves to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, because her mother wants to write a book and thinks that getting close to Laura Ingalls’s spirit will help. It has some good lessons about friends, about family, and about growing up. Tougas certainly understands the feel of the Little House books. She is also able to describe clearly the complexity of both American history and family dynamics. If you have time over Christmas break, I found it a quick and enjoyable read.

I have also received my copy of Prairie Fires, Caroline Fraser’s biography of Wilder, and I’m about two hundred pages in. It is certainly encyclopedic. More later when I finish.

I hope that everyone has a blessed Christmas and a good start to 2018.  Thanks for reading.


Laura Ingalls is Ruining My Life

Prairie Fires