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.
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.”
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.
Most journalists and academics attribute the rise of wildfires in the western United States to the USDA Forest Service's successful fire-elimination policies of the twentieth century. However, in Fire Management in the American West, Mark Hudson argues that although a century of suppression did indeed increase the hazard of wildfire, the responsibility does not lie with the USFS alone. The roots are found in the Forest Service's relationships with other, more powerful elements of society--the timber industry in particular.
Drawing on correspondence both between and within the Forest Service and the major timber industry associations, newspaper articles, articles from industry outlets, and policy documents from the late 1800s through the present, Hudson shows how the US forest industry, under the constraint of profitability, pushed the USFS away from private industry regulation and toward fire exclusion, eventually changing national forest policy into little more than fire policy.
More recently, the USFS has attempted to move beyond the policy of complete fire suppression. Interviews with public land managers in the Pacific Northwest shed light on the sources of the agency's struggles as it attempts to change the way we understand and relate to fire in the West.
Fire Management in the American West will be of great interest to environmentalists, sociologists, fire managers, scientists, and academics and students in environmental history and forestry.
"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.
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.”
Early descriptions of the Great Plains often focus on a vast, grassy expanse that was either burnt or burning. The scene continued to burn until the land was plowed under or grazed away and broken by innumerable roads and towns. Yet, where the original landscape has persisted, so has fire, and where people have sought to restore something of that original setting, they have had to reinstate fire. This has required the persistence or creation of a fire culture, which in turn inspired schools of science and art that make the Great Plains today a regional hearth for American fire.
Volume 5 of To the Last Smoke introduces a region that once lay at the geographic heart of American fire, and today promises to reclaim something of that heritage. After all these years, the Great Plains continue to bear witness to how fires can shape contemporary life, and vice versa. In this collection of essays, Stephen J. Pyne explores how this once most regularly and widely burned province of North America, composed of various subregions and peoples, has been shaped by the flames contained within it and what fire, both tame and feral, might mean for the future of its landscapes.
Included in this volume:
How wildland and rural fire have changed from the 19th century to the 21st century
How fire is managed in the nation’s historic tallgrass prairies, from Texas to South Dakota, from Illinois to Nebraska
How fire connects with other themes of Great Plains life and culture
How and why Texas has returned to the national narrative of landscape 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
Ignited by a single match on April 30, 1977, the Five Mile Tower Fire raged out of control for 17 hours. It would be one of the largest wildland fires in Wisconsin history, ultimately destroying more than 13,000 acres of land and 63 buildings. As a column of black pine smoke reached high in the sky, citizens from Minong, Chicog, Webster, Gordon, Wascott, Hayward, Spooner, Solon Springs, and other communities began showing up to help. The grassy field designated as fire headquarters quickly became a hub of activity, jammed with trucks, school buses, dozers on trailers, dump trucks, tanker trucks, fuel trucks, and hundreds of people waiting to sign in. More than 900 came in the first four hours, clogging the road with traffic in both directions. Headquarters personnel worked valiantly to coordinate citizens and DNR workers in a buildup of people and equipment unprecedented in the history of Wisconsin firefighting.
Based on his own experiences during the long battle, plus dozens of interviews and other eyewitness accounts, Bill Matthias presents an in-depth look at the Five Mile Tower Fire, the brave citizens who helped fight it, and the important changes made to firefighting laws and procedures in its aftermath.
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 this rugged account of a rugged profession, Matthew Desmond explores the heart and soul of the wildland firefighter. Having joined a firecrew in Northern Arizona as a young man, Desmond relates his experiences with intimate knowledge and native ease, adroitly balancing emotion with analysis and action with insight. On the Fireline shows that these firefighters aren’t the adrenaline junkies or romantic heroes as they’re so often portrayed.
An immersion into a dangerous world, On the Fireline is also a sophisticated analysis of a high-risk profession—and a captivating read.
“Gripping . . . a masterful account of how young men are able to face down wildfire, and why they volunteer for such an enterprise in the first place.”—David Grazian, Sociological Forum
“Along with the risks and sorrow, Desmond also presents the humor and comaraderie of ordinary men performing extraordinary tasks. . . . A good complement to Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire. Recommended.”—Library Journal
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.
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.
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.”
The wildfires that spread across Southern California in the fall of 2003 were devastating in their scale-twenty-two deaths, thousands of homes destroyed and many more threatened, hundreds of thousands of acres burned. What had gone wrong? And why, after years of discussion of fire policy, are some of America's most spectacular conflagrations arising now, and often not in a remote wilderness but close to large settlements?
That is the opening to a brilliant discussion of the politics of fire by one of the country's most knowledgeable writers on the subject, Stephen J. Pyne. Once a fire fighter himself (for fifteen seasons, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon) and now a professor at Arizona State University, Pyne gives us for the first time a book-length discussion of fire policy, of how we have come to this pass, and where we might go from here.
Tending Fire provides a remarkably broad, sometimes startling context for understanding fire. Pyne traces the "ancient alliance" between fire and humanity, delves into the role of European expansion and the creation of fire-prone public lands, and then explores the effects wrought by changing policies of "letting burn" and suppression. How, the author asks, can we better protect ourselves against the fires we don't want, and better promote those we do?
Pyne calls for important reforms in wildfire management and makes a convincing plea for a more imaginative conception of fire, though always grounded in a vivid sense of fire's reality. "Amid the shouting and roar, a central fact remains," he writes. "Fire isn't listening. It doesn't feel our pain. It doesn't care-really, really doesn't care. It understands a language of wind, drought, woods, grass, brush, and terrain, and it will ignore anything stated otherwise."
Rich in insight, wide-ranging in its subject, and clear-eyed in its proposals, Tending Fire is for anyone fascinated by fire, fire policy, or human culture.
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.