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.
California: A Fire Survey
Stephen J. Pyne University of Arizona Press, 2016 Library of Congress SD421.32.C2C685 2016 | Dewey Decimal 363.3709794
The coastal sage and shrublands of California burn. The mountain-encrusting chaparral burns. The conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, Cascades, and Trinity Alps burn. The rain-shadowed deserts after watering by El Niño cloudbursts and the thick forests of the rumpled Coast Range—all burn according to local rhythms of wetting and drying. Fire season, so the saying goes, lasts 13 months.
In this collection of essays on the region, Stephen J. Pyne colorfully explores the ways the region has approached fire management and what sets it apart from other parts of the country. Pyne writes that what makes California’s fire scene unique is how its dramatically distinctive biomes have been yoked to a common system, ultimately committed to suppression, and how its fires burn with a character and on a scale commensurate with the state’s size and political power. California has not only a ferocity of flame but a cultural intensity that few places can match. California’s fires are instantly and hugely broadcast. They shape national institutions, and they have repeatedly defined the discourse of fire’s history. No other place has so sculpted the American way of fire.
California is part of the multivolume series describing the nation’s fire scene region by region. The volumes in To the Last Smoke also cover Florida, the Northern Rockies, the Great Plains, the Southwest, and several other critical fire regions. The series serves as an important punctuation point to Pyne’s fifty-year career with wildland fire—both as a firefighter and a fire scholar. These unique surveys of regional pyrogeography are Pyne’s way of “keeping with it to the end,” encompassing the directive from his rookie season to stay with every fire “to the last smoke.”
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.
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.
Florida: A Fire Survey
Stephen J. Pyne University of Arizona Press, 2016 Library of Congress SD421.32.F6P96 2016 | Dewey Decimal 363.37909759
In Florida, fire season is plural, and it is most often a verb. Something can always burn. Fires burn longleaf, slash, and sand pine. They burn wiregrass, sawgrass, and palmetto. The lush growth, the dry winters, the widely cast sparks—Florida is built to burn.
In this important new collection of essays on the region, Stephen J. Pyne colorfully explores the ways the region has approached fire management. Florida has long resisted national models of fire suppression in favor of prescribed burning, for which it has ideal environmental conditions and a robust culture. Out of this heritage the fire community has created institutions to match. The Tallahassee region became the ignition point for the national fire revolution of the 1960s. Today, it remains the Silicon Valley of prescription burning. How and why this happened is the topic of a fire reconnaissance that begins in the panhandle and follows Floridian fire south to the Everglades.
Florida is the first book in a multivolume series describing the nation’s fire scene region by region. The volumes in To the Last Smoke will also cover California, the Northern Rockies, the Great Plains, the Southwest, and several other critical fire regions. The series serves as an important punctuation point to Pyne’s fifty-year career with wildland fire—both as a firefighter and a fire scholar. These unique surveys of regional pyrogeography are Pyne’s way of “keeping with it to the end,” encompassing the directive from his rookie season to stay with every fire “to the last smoke.”
Reverend Peter Pernin was the parish priest for Peshtigo and nearby Marinette, whose churches burned to the ground. He published his account of the fire in 1874. The late William Converse Haygood served as editor of the Wisconsin Magazine of History from 1957 to 1975. He prepared this version of Father Pernin's account on the occasion of the Peshtigo Fire's centennial in 1971. Foreword writer Stephen J. Pyne is a professor at Arizona State University in Tempe and author of numerous books on wildland fire, including Fire in America.
On the night of October 8, 1871, a whirlwind of fire swept through northeastern Wisconsin, destroying the bustling frontier town of Peshtigo. Trees, buildings, and people burst into flames. Metal melted. Sand turned into glass. People thought the end of the world had come. When the “tornado of fire” was over, 2,500 people were dead, and Peshtigo was nothing but a smoking ruin. It was the deadliest wildfire in U.S. history.
The Great Peshtigo Fire: Stories and Science from America’s Deadliest Firestorm explores the history, science, and legacy of the 1871 Peshtigo Fire at a fourth-grade reading level. Readers will learn about the history of settlement, agriculture, and forestry in 19th-century Wisconsin. This illuminating text covers a diverse range of topics that will enrich the reader’s understanding of the Peshtigo Fire, including the building and land-use practices of the time that made the area ripe for such a fire, the weather patterns that fostered widespread fires throughout the upper Midwest in the summer and fall of 1871, and exciting first-person accounts that vividly bring the `victims’ stories to life. Connections made between the Peshtigo Fire and the history of fire prevention in the United States encourage critical thinking about issues that remain controversial to this day, such as planned burns and housing development restrictions near forested areas. The Great Peshtigo Fire: Stories and Science from America’s Deadliest Firestorm will inform and captivate its readers as it journeys through the horrifying history of the Peshtigo Fire.
Here and There: A Fire Survey
Stephen J. Pyne University of Arizona Press, 2018 Library of Congress SD421.3.P962 2018 | Dewey Decimal 634.96180973
Fire is special. Even among the ancient elements, fire is different because it alone is a reaction. It synthesizes its surroundings; it takes its character from its context. It varies by place, by culture, and by time. It has no single expression. There is no single way to understand it.
In this collection of essays, historian and renowned fire expert Stephen J. Pyne offers his reflections on national and global wildland fire management. Pyne distills the long saga of fire on Earth and its role in underwriting an Anthropocene that might equally be called a Pyrocene.
Presented through a mixture of journalism, history, and literary imagination, Here and There moves the discussion of fire beyond the usual formations of science and policy within a national narrative to one of thoughtful interpretation, analysis, and commentary. Centered on the unique complexities of fire management in a global world, Here and There offers a punctuation point to our understanding of wildfire.
Included in this volume:
How fire policy has changed within the United States
How policy in the United States differs from that in other countries
The history of one of the most famous fire paintings of all time
Suggested next steps for the future of fire research
Its fires help to give the Interior West a peculiar character, fundamental to its natural and human histories. While a general aridity unites the region—defined here as Nevada, Utah, and western Colorado—its fires illuminate the ways that the region’s various parts show profoundly different landscapes, biotas, and human settlement experiences.
In this collection of essays, fire historian Stephen J. Pyne explains the relevance of the Interior West to the national fire scene. This region offered the first scientific inquiry into landscape fire in the United States, including a map of Utah burns published in 1878 as part of John Wesley Powell’s Arid Lands report. Then its significance faded, and for most of the 20th century, the Interior West was the hole in the national donut of fire management. Recently the region has returned to prominence due to fires along its front ranges; invasive species, both exotics like cheatgrass and unleashed natives like mountain pine beetle; and fatality fires, notably at South Canyon in 1994.
The Interior West has long been passed over in national fire narratives. Here it reclaims its rightful place.
Included in this volume:
A summary of 19th- and 20th-century fire history in the Interior West
How this important region inspired U.S. studies of landscape fire
Why the region disappeared from national fire management discussions
How the expansion of invasive species and loss of native species has affected the region’s fire ecology
The national significance of fire in the Interior West
The Northeast: A Fire Survey
Stephen J. Pyne University of Arizona Press, 2019 Library of Congress SD421.32.N65P96 2019 | Dewey Decimal 634.96180974
Repeatedly, if paradoxically, the Northeast has led national developments in fire. Its intellectuals argued for model preserves in the Adirondacks and at Yellowstone, oversaw the first mapping of the American fire scene for the 1880 census, staffed the 1896 National Academy of Sciences forest commission that laid down guidelines for the national forests, and spearheaded legislation that allowed those reserves to expand by purchase. It trained the leaders who staffed those protected areas and produced most of America’s first environmentalists.
The Northeast has its roster of great fires, beginning with dark days in the late 18th century, followed by a chronicle of conflagrations continuing as late as 1903 and 1908, with a shocking after-tremor in 1947. It hosted the nation’s first forestry schools. It organized the first interstate (and international) fire compact. And it was the Northeast that pioneered the transition to the true Big Burn—industrial combustion—as America went from burning living landscapes to burning lithic ones.
In this new book in the To the Last Smoke series, renowned fire expert Stephen J. Pyne narrates this history and explains how fire is returning to a place not usually thought of in America’s fire scene. He examines what changes in climate and land use mean for wildfire, what fire ecology means for cultural landscapes, and what experiments are underway to reintroduce fire to habitats that need it. The region’s great fires have gone; its influence on the national scene has not. The Northeast: A Fire Survey samples the historic and contemporary significance of the region and explains how it fits into a national cartography and narrative of fire.
Included in this volume:
How the region shaped America’s understanding of and policy toward fire
How fire fits into the region today
What fire in the region means for the rest of the country
What changes in climate, land use, and institutions may mean for the region
It’s a place of big skies and big fires, big burns like those of 1910 and 1988 that riveted national attention. Conflagrations like those of 1934 and 2007 that reformed national policy. Blowups like that in Mann Gulch that shaped the literature of American fire. Big fires mostly hidden in the backcountry like the Fitz Creek and Howler fires that inspired the practice of managed wildfires. Until the fire revolution of the 1960s, no region so shaped the American way of fire.
The Northern Rockies remain one of three major hearths for America’s fire culture. They hold a major fire laboratory, an equipment development center, an aerial fire depot, and a social engagement with fire—even a literature. Missoula is to fire in the big backcountry what Tallahassee is to prescribed burning and what Southern California is to urban-wildland hybrids. On its margins, Boise hosts the National Interagency Fire Center. In this structured collection of essays on the region, Stephen J. Pyne explores what makes the Northern Rockies distinctive and what sets it apart from other regions of the country. Surprisingly, perhaps, the story is equally one of big bureaucracies and of generations that encounter the region’s majestic landscapes through flame.
The Northern Rockies is part of a multivolume series describing the nation’s fire scene region by region. The volumes in To the Last Smoke also cover Florida, the Northern Rockies, the Great Plains, the Southwest, and several other critical fire regions. The series serves as an important punctuation point to Pyne’s 50-year career with wildland fire—both as a firefighter and a fire scholar. These unique surveys of regional pyrogeography are Pyne’s way of “keeping with it to the end,” encompassing the directive from his rookie season to stay with every fire “to the last smoke.”
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.
America is not simply a federation of states but a confederation of regions. Some have always held national attention, some just for a time. Slopovers examines three regions that once dominated the national narrative and may now be returning to prominence.
The Mid-American oak woodlands were the scene of vigorous settlement in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and thus the scene of changing fire practices. The debate over the origin of the prairies—by climate or fire—foreshadowed the more recent debate about fire in oak and hickory hardwoods. In both cases, today’s thinking points to the critical role of fire.
The Pacific Northwest was the great pivot between laissez-faire logging and state-sponsored conservation and the fires that would accompany each. Then fire faded as an environmental issue. But it has returned over the past decade like an avenging angel, forcing the region to again consider the defining dialectic between axe and flame.
And Alaska—Alaska is different, as everyone says. It came late to wildland fire protection, then managed an extraordinary transfiguration into the most successful American region to restore something like the historic fire regime. But Alaska is also a petrostate, and climate change may be making it the vanguard of what the Anthropocene will mean for American fire overall.
Slopovers collates surveys of these three regions into the national narrative. With a unique mixture of journalism, history, and literary imagination, renowned fire expert Stephen J. Pyne shows how culture and nature, fire from nature and fire from people, interact to shape our world with three case studies in public policy and the challenging questions they pose about the future we will share with fire.
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.
The Southwest: A Fire Survey
Stephen J. Pyne University of Arizona Press, 2016 Library of Congress SD421.32.A6P96 2016 | Dewey Decimal 363.370979
With its scattered mountains and high rims, its dry air and summer lightning, its rising tier of biomes from desert grasses to alpine conifers, and its aggressive exurban sprawl, something in the Southwest is ready to burn each year and some high-value assets seem ever in their path. But the past 20 years have witnessed an uptake in savagery, as routine surface burns have mutated into megafires and overrun nearly a quarter of the region’s forests. What happened, and what does it mean for the rest of the country?
Through a mixture of journalism, history, and literary imagination, fire expert Stephen J. Pyne provides a lively survey of what makes this region distinctive, moving us beyond the usual conversations of science and policy. Pyne explores the Southwest’s sacred mountains, including the Jemez, Mogollon, Huachucas, and Kaibab; its sky islands, among them the Chiricahuas, Mount Graham, and Tanque Verde; and its famous rims and borders. Together, the essays provide a cross-section of how landscape fire looks in the early years of the 21st century, what is being done to manage it, and how fire connects with other themes of southwestern life and culture.
The Southwest is part of the multivolume series describing the nation’s fire scene region by region. The volumes in To the Last Smoke also cover California, the Northern Rockies, the Great Plains, Florida, and several other critical fire regions. The series serves as an important punctuation point to Pyne’s 50-year career with wildland fire—both as a firefighter and a fire scholar. These unique surveys of regional pyrogeography are Pyne’s way of “keeping with it to the end,” encompassing the directive from his rookie season to stay with every fire “to the last smoke.”
From boreal Alaska to subtropical Florida, from the chaparral of California to the pitch pine of New Jersey, America boasts nearly a billion burnable acres. In nine previous volumes, Stephen J. Pyne has explored the fascinating variety of flame region by region. In To the Last Smoke: An Anthology, he selects a sampling of the best from each.
To the Last Smoke offers a unique and sweeping view of the nation’s fire scene by distilling observations on Florida, California, the Northern Rockies, the Great Plains, the Southwest, the Interior West, the Northeast, Alaska, the oak woodlands, and the Pacific Northwest into a single, readable volume. The anthology functions as a color-commentary companion to the play-by-play narrative offered in Pyne’s Between Two Fires: A Fire History of Contemporary America. The series is Pyne’s way of “keeping with it to the end,” encompassing the directive from his rookie season to stay with every fire “to the last smoke.”
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.
Young Men and Fire
Norman Maclean University of Chicago Press, 1992 Library of Congress SD421.32.M9M33 1992 | Dewey Decimal 634.96180978664
On August 5, 1949, a crew of fifteen of the United States Forest Service's elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Two hours after their jump, all but three of these men were dead or mortally burned. Haunted by these deaths for forty years, Norman Maclean puts back together the scattered pieces of the Mann Gulch tragedy.
Young Men and Fire won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.
"A magnificent drama of writing, a tragedy that pays tribute to the dead and offers rescue to the living.... Maclean's search for the truth, which becomes an exploration of his own mortality, is more compelling even than his journey into the heart of the fire. His description of the conflagration terrifies, but it is his battle with words, his effort to turn the story of the 13 men into tragedy that makes this book a classic."—from New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, Best Books of 1992
"A treasure: part detective story, part western, part tragedy, part elegy and wholly eloquent ghost story in which the dead and the living join ranks cheerfully, if sometimes eerily, in a search for truth and the rest it brings."—Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune
"An astonishing book. In compelling language, both homely and elegant, Young Men and Fire miraculously combines a fascinating primer on fires and firefighting, a powerful, breathtakingly real reconstruction of a tragedy, and a meditation on writing, grief and human character.... Maclean's last book will stir your heart and haunt your memory."—Timothy Foote, USA Today
"Beautiful.... A dark American idyll of which the language can be proud."—Robert M. Adams, The New York Review of Books
"Young Men and Fire is redolent of Melville. Just as the reader of Moby Dick comes to comprehend the monstrous entirety of the great white whale, so the reader of Young Men and Fire goes into the heart of the great red fire and comes out thoroughly informed. Don't hesitate to take the plunge."—Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post Book World
"Young Men and Fire is a somber and poetic retelling of a tragic event. It is the pinnacle of smokejumping literature and a classic work of 20th-century nonfiction."—John Holkeboer, The Wall Street Journal
"Maclean is always with the brave young dead. . . . They could not have found a storyteller with a better claim to represent their honor. . . . A great book."—James R. Kincaid, NewYork Times Book Review
A devastating and lyrical work of nonfiction, Young Men and Fire describes the events of August 5, 1949, when a crew of fifteen of the US Forest Service’s elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Two hours after their jump, all but three of the men were dead or mortally burned. Haunted by these deaths for forty years, Norman Maclean puts together the scattered pieces of the Mann Gulch tragedy in Young Men and Fire, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Alongside Maclean’s now-canonical A River Runs through It and Other Stories, Young Men and Fire is recognized today as a classic of the American West. This twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Maclean’s later triumph—the last book he would write—includes a powerful new foreword by Timothy Egan, author of The Big Burn and The Worst Hard Time. As moving and profound as when it was first published, Young Men and Fire honors the literary legacy of a man who gave voice to an essential corner of the American soul.