Swallowtail butterflies frolic on the wind. Vireos and rock wrens sing their hearts out by the recovering creek. Spiders and other predators chase their next meal. Through it all, John Alcock observes, records, and delights in what he sees. In a once-burnt area, life resurges. Plants whose seeds and roots withstood an intense fire become habitat for the returning creatures of the wild. After the Wildfire describes the remarkable recovery of wildlife in the Mazatzal Mountains in central Arizona.
It is the rare observer who has the dedication to revisit the site of a wildfire, especially over many years and seasons. But naturalist John Alcock returned again and again to the Mazatzals, where the disastrous Willow fire of 2004 burned 187 square miles. Documenting the fire’s aftermath over a decade, Alcock thrills at the renewal of the once-blackened region. Walking the South Fork of Deer Creek in all seasons as the years passed, he was rewarded by the sight of exuberant plant life that in turn fostered an equally satisfying return of animals ranging from small insects to large mammals.
Alcock clearly explains the response of chaparral plants to fire and the creatures that reinhabit these plants as they come back from a ferocious blaze: the great spreadwing damselfly, the western meadowlark, the elk, and birds and bugs of rich and colorful varieties. This book is at once a journey of biological discovery and a celebration of the ability of living things to reoccupy a devastated location. Alcock encourages others to engage the natural world—even one that has burnt to the ground.
From a fire policy of prevention at all costs to today's restored burning, Between Two Fires is America's history channeled through the story of wildland fire management. Stephen J. Pyne tells of a fire revolution that began in the 1960s as a reaction to simple suppression and single-agency hegemony, and then matured into more enlightened programs of fire management. It describes the counterrevolution of the 1980s that stalled the movement, the revival of reform after 1994, and the fire scene that has evolved since then.
Pyne is uniquely qualified to tell America’s fire story. The author of more than a score of books, he has told fire’s history in the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe, and the Earth overall. In his earlier life, he spent fifteen seasons with the North Rim Longshots at Grand Canyon National Park.
In Between Two Fires, Pyne recounts how, after the Great Fires of 1910, a policy of fire suppression spread from America’s founding corps of foresters into a national policy that manifested itself as a costly all-out war on fire. After fifty years of attempted fire suppression, a revolution in thinking led to a more pluralistic strategy for fire’s restoration. The revolution succeeded in displacing suppression as a sole strategy, but it has failed to fully integrate fire and land management and has fallen short of its goals.
Today, the nation’s backcountry and increasingly its exurban fringe are threatened by larger and more damaging burns, fire agencies are scrambling for funds, firefighters continue to die, and the country seems unable to come to grips with the fundamentals behind a rising tide of megafires. Pyne has once again constructed a history of record that will shape our next century of fire management. Between Two Fires is a story of ideas, institutions, and fires. It’s America’s story told through the nation’s flames.
David Strohmaier’s long career as a firefighter has given him intimate knowledge of wildfire and its complex role in the natural world of the American West. It has also given him rare understanding of the painful losses that are a consequence of fire. Strohmaier addresses our ambivalence about fire and the realities of loss to it—of life, human and animal, of livelihoods, of beloved places. He also examines the process of renewal that is yet another consequence of fire, from the infusion of essential nutrients into the soil, to the sprouting of seeds that depend on fire for germination, to the renewal of species as the land restores itself. Ultimately, according to Strohmaier, living with fire is a matter of choices, of “seeing the connection between loss on a personal scale and loss on a landscape scale: in relationship with persons, and in relationship to and with the land.” We must cultivate a longer perspective, he says, accepting that loss is a part of life and that “humility and empathy and care are not only core virtues between humans but are also essential virtues in our attitudes and actions toward the earth.” Drift Smoke is a powerful and moving meditation on wildfire by someone who has seen it in all its terror and beauty, who has lost colleagues and beloved terrain to its ferocity, and who has also seen the miracle of new life sprouting in the ashes. The debate over the role and control of fire in the West will not soon end, but Strohmaier’s contribution to the debate will help all of us better appreciate both the complexity of the issues and the possibilities of hitherto unconsidered solutions that will allow us to inhabit a place where fire is a natural, and needed, part of life.
Fire Ecology in Rocky Mountain Landscapes brings a century of scientific research to bear on improving the relationship between people and fire.
In recent years, some scientists have argued that current patterns of fire are significantly different from historical patterns, and that landscapes should be managed with an eye toward reestablishing past fire regimes. At the policy level, state and federal agencies have focused on fuel reduction and fire suppression as a means of controlling fire.
Geographer William L. Baker takes a different view, making the case that the available scientific data show that infrequent episodes of large fires followed by long interludes with few fires led to naturally fluctuating landscapes, and that the best approach is not to try to change or control fire but to learn to live with it. In Fire Ecology in Rocky Mountain Landscapes, Baker reviews functional traits and responses of plants and animals to fire at the landscape scale; explains how scientists reconstruct the history of fire in landscapes; elaborates on the particulars of fire under the historical range of variability in the Rockies; and considers the role of Euro-Americans in creating the landscapes and fire situations of today.
In the end, the author argues that the most effective action is to rapidly limit and redesign people-nature interfaces to withstand fire, which he believes can be done in ways that are immediately beneficial to both nature and communities.
The structure of most virgin forests in the western United States reflects a past disturbance history that includes forest fire. James K. Agee, an expert in the emergent field of fire ecology, analyzes the ecological role of fire in the creation and maintenance of natural western forests, focusing primarily on forest stand development patterns. His discussion of the natural fire environment and the environmental effects of fire is applicable to a wide range of temperate forests.
For nearly two centuries, the creation myth for the United States imagined European settlers arriving on the shores of a vast, uncharted wilderness. Over the last two decades, however, a contrary vision has emerged, one which sees the country's roots not in a state of "pristine" nature but rather in a "human-modified landscape" over which native peoples exerted vast control.Fire, Native Peoples, and the Natural Landscape seeks a middle ground between those conflicting paradigms, offering a critical, research-based assessment of the role of Native Americans in modifying the landscapes of pre-European America. Contributors focus on the western United States and look at the question of fire regimes, the single human impact which could have altered the environment at a broad, landscape scale, and which could have been important in almost any part of the West. Each of the seven chapters is written by a different author about a different subregion of the West, evaluating the question of whether the fire regimes extant at the time of European contact were the product of natural factors or whether ignitions by Native Americans fundamentally changed those regimes.An introductory essay offers context for the regional chapters, and a concluding section compares results from the various regions and highlights patterns both common to the West as a whole and distinctive for various parts of the western states. The final section also relates the findings to policy questions concerning the management of natural areas, particularly on federal lands, and of the "naturalness" of the pre-European western landscape.
Fire is a daunting human ecological challenge and a major subject in science and policy debates about global trends in land conversion, climate change, and human health. Persistent environmental orthodoxies reduce complex burning traditions to overly simplistic representations of environmental destruction, degradation, and loss while reinforcing existing social inequities involving smallholders. Fire Otherwise: Ethnobiology of Burning for a Changing World advocates for a more inclusive and pluralistic fire ecology, a shift from the paradigmatic globalized version of fire science and management towards research and management that embraces anthropogenic fire regimes and broader understandings of the ways humans interact with fire. The authors present new evaluations of human interactions with fires in contexts of changing environmental conditions. Through deep description and analysis of knowledge and practices enacted by local communities who ignite, manage, and extinguish fires, this collection of case studies supports proactive local and regional efforts to adapt amidst continually changing social and ecological circumstances.
"Frightening...Firestorm comes alive when Struzik discusses the work of offbeat scientists." —New York Times Book Review
"Comprehensive and compelling." —Booklist
"A powerful message." —Kirkus
"Should be required reading." —Library Journal
For two months in the spring of 2016, the world watched as wildfire ravaged the Canadian town of Fort McMurray. Firefighters named the fire “the Beast.” It acted like a mythical animal, alive with destructive energy, and they hoped never to see anything like it again. Yet it’s not a stretch to imagine we will all soon live in a world in which fires like the Beast are commonplace. A glance at international headlines shows a remarkable increase in higher temperatures, stronger winds, and drier lands– a trifecta for igniting wildfires like we’ve rarely seen before.
This change is particularly noticeable in the northern forests of the United States and Canada. These forests require fire to maintain healthy ecosystems, but as the human population grows, and as changes in climate, animal and insect species, and disease cause further destabilization, wildfires have turned into a potentially uncontrollable threat to human lives and livelihoods.
Our understanding of the role fire plays in healthy forests has come a long way in the past century. Despite this, we are not prepared to deal with an escalation of fire during periods of intense drought and shorter winters, earlier springs, potentially more lightning strikes and hotter summers. There is too much fuel on the ground, too many people and assets to protect, and no plan in place to deal with these challenges.
In Firestorm, journalist Edward Struzik visits scorched earth from Alaska to Maine, and introduces the scientists, firefighters, and resource managers making the case for a radically different approach to managing wildfire in the 21st century. Wildfires can no longer be treated as avoidable events because the risk and dangers are becoming too great and costly. Struzik weaves a heart-pumping narrative of science, economics, politics, and human determination and points to the ways that we, and the wilder inhabitants of the forests around our cities and towns, might yet flourish in an age of growing megafires.
Shaped by fire for thousands of years, the forests of the western United States are as adapted to periodic fires as they are to the region's soils and climate. Our widespread practice of ignoring the vital role of fire is costly in both ecological and economic terms, with consequences including the decline of important fire-dependent tree and undergrowth species, increasing density and stagnation of forests, epidemics of insects and diseases, and the high potential for severe wildfires.
Flames in Our Forest explains those problems and presents viable solutions to them. It explores the underlying historical and ecological reasons for the problems associated with our attempts to exclude fire and examines how some of the benefits of natural fire can be restored Chapters consider:
the history of American perceptions and uses of fire in the forest
how forest fires burn
effects of fire on the soil, water, and air
methods for uncovering the history and effects of past fires
prescribed fire and fuel treatments for different zones in the landscape
Flames in Our Forest presents a new picture of the role of fire in maintaining forests, describes the options available for restoring the historical effects of fires, and considers the implications of not doing so. It will help readers appreciate the importance of fire in forests and gives a nontechnical overview of the scientific knowledge and tools available for sustaining western forests by mimicking and restoring the effects of natural fire regimes.
The magnificent stands of old-growth trees that characterize the forests of western North America depend on periodic fires for their creation or survival. Deprived of that essential disturbance process eventually they die, leaving an overcrowded growth of smaller trees vulnerable to intense blazes and epidemics of insects and disease.
In Mimicking Nature's Fire, forest ecologists Stephen Arno and Carl Fiedler present practical solutions to the pervasive problem of deteriorating forest conditions in western North America. Advocating a new direction in forest management, they explore the promise of "restoration forestry" -- an ecologically based approach that seeks to establish forest structures in which fire can once again serve as a beneficial process rather than as a destructive aberration.
The book begins with an overview of fundamentals: why traditional forestry tried to exclude fire from forests, why that attempt failed, and why foresters and ecologists now recognize the need for management based on how natural ecosystems operate. Subsequent chapters consider: how fire's historic role provides a foundation for designing restoration strategies; why a hands-off approach will not return forests to their historical condition; how management goals influence the strategies used in restoration forestry.
The second part of the book presents case studies of restoration projects in the western United States and Canada, representing different forest types, different historic fire regimes, and contrasting management goals. For each project, the authors describe why and how the project is being conducted, profile forest conditions, and describe methods of treatment. They also report what has been accomplished, identify obstacles to restoration, and offer their candid but understanding evaluation. Mimicking Nature's Fire concludes by placing restoration forestry in the broad context of conserving forests worldwide and outlining factors critical for its success.
American Association for the Advancement of Science / Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books, Best Hands-On Science Book 2017
In this sequel to Ellie’s Log: Exploring the Forest Where the Great Tree Fell, Ricky Zamora brings his love of map-making and his boundless curiosity to the arid landscapes east of the Cascades Mountains. He arrives during a wild thunderstorm, and watches his family and their neighbors scramble to deal with a wildfire sparked by lightning. Joined by his friend Ellie, he sees how plants, animals, and people adjust to life with wildfires.
While hiking across a natural prairie, climbing up a fire tower, and studying historical photos and maps, Ricky and Ellie learn about the role of fire in shaping the landscape of the semi-arid plateau east of the mountains. They experience the scary days of wildfire in progress, explore a gritty site after a wildfire, and discover how some plants and animals depend on fire to survive.
Color pen-and-ink drawings accompany the text and vividly illustrate plants, animals, and events encountered in this exciting summer adventure. With his friend Ellie, Ricky creates a brightly colored diary of the fire, with maps, timelines, and sketches of what they see in this fire-prone land. Ricky’s notebook about his summer visit to his uncle’s ranch becomes an atlas of fire ecology, weather patterns, and life in the rain shadow.
Upper elementary kids will enjoy the mixture of amazing adventures with actual historical, physical, and ecological data about the region. Woven into the story are the small pleasures of ranch life, intriguing histories of Native Americans and early settlers, and almost unbelievable views of ancient fossils. Ricky and Ellie’s explorations, accompanied by their hand-written notes, introduce readers to a very special landscape and history east of the mountains.
In 1988, forest fires raged in Yellowstone National Park, destroying more than a million acres. As the nation watched the land around Old Faithful burn, a longstanding conflict over fire management reached a fever pitch. Should the U.S. Park and Forest Services suppress fires immediately or allow some to run their natural course? When should firefighters be sent to battle the flames and at what cost?
In Scorched Earth, Barker, an environmental reporter who was on the ground and in the smoke during the 1988 fires, shows us that many of today's arguments over fire and the nature of public land began to take shape soon after the Civil War. As Barker explains, how the government responded to early fires in Yellowstone and to private investors in the region led ultimately to the protection of 600 million acres of public lands in the United States. Barker uses his considerable narrative talents to bring to life a fascinating, but often neglected, piece of American history. Scorched Earth lays a new foundation for examining current fire and environmental policies in America and the world.
Our story begins when the West was yet to be won, with a colorful cast of characters: a civil war general and his soldiers, America's first investment banker, railroad men, naturalists, and fire-fighters-all of whom left their mark on Yellowstone. As the truth behind the creation of America's first national park is revealed, we discover the remarkable role the U.S. Army played in protecting Yellowstone and shaping public lands in the West. And we see the developing efforts of conservation's great figures as they struggled to preserve our heritage. With vivid descriptions of the famous fires that have raged in Yellowstone, the heroes who have tried to protect it, and the strategies that evolved as a result, Barker draws us into the very heart of a debate over our attempts to control nature and people.
This entertaining and timely book challenges the traditional views both of those who arrogantly seek full control of nature and those who naively believe we can leave it unaltered. And it demonstrates how much of our broader environmental history was shaped in the lands of Yellowstone.
Fire is a fearsome constant in the America West. As the author David J. Strohmaier notes, "Whether we have tended a campfire along Oregon's Deschutes River in March, engaged the advancing front of a Great Basin wildfire in the torrid heat of August, or watched fire settle into the subdued, smoldering leaf piles of October, all of our lives, to one degree or another, are bracketed by fire." In The Seasons of Fire, Strohmaier effectively blends nature writing, personal essay, and philosophical analysis as he deliberately crosses disciplinary boundaries. He discusses the "moral" dimensions of fire—not only whether fires are good, bad, or indifferent phenomena, but also how fire, more generally understood, shapes meaning for human life. The consequences of discussing the moral side of fire speak directly to the contours of the human soul, and to our sense of our place on the land. Strohmaier, a long-term firefighter himself, includes accurate and sometimes gut-wrenching descriptions of the firefighter's experience.
Stephen J. Pyne University of Arizona Press, 2003 Library of Congress SD421.3.P963 2003 | Dewey Decimal 634.9618
"Painting, architecture, politics, even gardening and golf—all have their critics and commentators," observes Stephen Pyne. "Fire does not." Aside from news reports on fire disasters, most writing about fire appears in government reports and scientific papers—and in journalism that has more in common with the sports page than the editorial page.
Smokechasing presents commentaries by one of America's leading fire scholars, who analyzes fire the way another might an election campaign or a literary work. "Smokechasing" is an American coinage describing the practice of sending firefighters into the wild to track down the source of reported smoke. Now a self-described "friendly fire critic" tracks down more of the history and lore of fire in a collection that focuses on wildland fire and its management. Building on and complementing a previous anthology, World Fire, this new collection features thirty-two original articles and substantial revisions of works that have previously appeared in print. Pyne addresses many issues that have sparked public concern in the wake of disastrous wildfires in the West, such as fire ecology, federal fire management, and questions relating to fire suppression. He observes that the mistake in fire policy has been not that wildfires are suppressed but that controlled fires are no longer ignited; yet the attempted forced reintroduction of fire through prescribed burning has proved difficult, and sometimes damaging. There are, Pyne argues, many fire problems; some have technical solutions, some not. But there is no evading humanity's unique power and responsibility: what we don't do may be as ecologically powerful as what we do.
Throughout the collection, Pyne makes it clear that humans and fire interact at particular places and times to profoundly shape the world, and that understanding the contexts in which fire occurs can tell us much about the world's natural and cultural landscapes. Fire's context gives it its meaning, and Smokechasing not only helps illuminate those contexts but also shows us how to devise new contexts for tomorrow's fires.
Wildfire: A Reader
Edited by Alianor True Island Press, 2001 Library of Congress QH545.F5W53 2001 | Dewey Decimal 577.2
During the summer of 2000, Americans from coast to coast witnessed the worst fire season in recorded history. Daily news reports brought dramatic images of vast swaths of land going up in smoke, from the mountains of Montana and Wyoming, to the scrublands of Texas, to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where a controlled burn gone awry threatened forests, homes, and even our nation's nuclear secrets. As they have for centuries, wildfires captured our attention and our imagination, reminding us of the power of the natural forces that shape our world.
In Wildfire: A Reader nature writer and wildland firefighter Alianor True gathers together for the first time some of the finest stories and essays ever written about wildfire in America. From Mark Twain to Norman Maclean to Edward Abbey, writers featured here depict and record wildfires with remarkable depth and clarity. An ecological perspective is well represented through the works of John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and John McPhee. Ed Engle, Louise Wagenknecht, and Gretchen Yost, firefighters from the front lines, give us exciting first-person perspectives, reliving their on-the-ground encounters with forest fires.
The works gathered in Wildfire not only explore the sensory and aesthetic aspects of fire, but also highlight how much attitudes have changed over the past 200 years. From Native Americans who used fire as a tool, to early Americans who viewed it as a frightening and destructive force, to Aldo Leopold and other conservationists whose ideas caused us to rethink the value and role of fire, this rich collection is organized around those shifts in thinking.
Capturing the fury and the heat of a raging inferno, or the quiet emergence of wildflowers sprouting from ashes, the writings included in Wildfire represent a vital and compelling addition to the nature writing and natural history bookshelf.
The Wildfire Reader presents, in an affordable paperback edition, the essays included in Wildfire, offering a concise overview of fire landscapes and the past century of forest policy that has affected them.