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.
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.