Fire On The Rim

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Stephen J. Pyne is to fire what Theodore White was to American politics, an insider who can explain how his subject works and affects our lives.... In Fire on the Rim Pyne has compressed accounts of the 15 summers he spent as an eager firefighter [on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon]. He begins as a single man, enjoying the heady freedom of his summertime release from college, and ends when he is married and a father, a veteran fighting his last gritty battle against the flames before regretfully packing up like a successful professional athlete who has stayed two or three seasons too long.... This book, full of human detail, brings us to the front lines, and we learn what fires mean to the fire—crew foreman (an empire to rule over, if only for a summer) and to the individual firefighter (not the least is plenty of overtime if the struggle against a minor blaze can be stretched out).... The author reminds us of the natural rhythms of these vast wild preserves that thwart any of man’s efforts to shape them.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pyne ( The Ice ) spent 15 seasons as a firefighter on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. In this lively account of one season, he introduces us to the tightly knit world of a fire crew, to the complex geography of the North Rim, to the technique and changing philosophy of fire management. Firefighters, the migrant workers of the National Park Service, look askance at its career employees, we're told: Park Naturalists are ``fern feelers'' and Rangers are simply police officers. Pyne makes trenchant comments about the Park Service and its emphasis on people rather than resource management; as more visitors come into an area, Rangers replace fire crews. A firefighter needs resourcefulness and stamina, writes Pyne, and these qualities are amply represented in his tales of men in the field, forest and on the Rim. The book will appeal to readers who enjoy action; it will also appeal to those interested in the human-wildfire-nature relationship. (Apr.)
Reprint (of 1989 ed.) with a new preface. Pyne (American Studies, Arizona State U., MacArthur awardee) recounts his 15 years as an active firefighter on the North Rim. A lyric, articulate, swift book. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295974835
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 9/5/2000
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 721,289
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2006

    Too Verbose

    The stories about the fires were interesting enough. Unfortunately, the stories were overshadowed by the author trying to impress the reader with his vacabulary.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2001

    Very readable, humorous, great human-interest focus

    This is a very readable account of the author's 15 seasons as a wildland firefighter in Grand Canyon National Park. This book is at its best when describing the sociology and relationships within the fire crew itself, but the vivid descriptions of the Grand Canyon landscape are also excellent. The account of some of the crew being sent to a large fire in California is classic, and will leave anyone who has 'been there, done that' rolling in laughter. There are a lot more anecdotes like that throughout the entire book. This is also something of a capsule history of the changes in U.S. fire policy in between the late 1960s (when fire crews were locally-directed, equipment hadn't changed much since the 1950s, and the Smokey Bear mentality still reigned supreme with official policy being to have every fire attended to by 10 AM the next day), and the early 1980s (when local crews such as the one the author was on were being de-emphasized in favor of interregional (hotshot) crews, fire strategy nationwide was directed from Boise, and the era of prescribed burns and 'let natural fires burn' was beginning to come into full force.) Most of this account takes place during the 1970s, and things sure have changed a lot since then. A bit of 1970s pop culture seeps into the book as well, with the hilarious new lyrics the fire crew wrote to some popular Kris Kristofferson, Paul Simon, and James Taylor songs of the day. Some other don't-miss tales include the stories of the mis-adventures involving pick-up fire crews from the nearby Navaho and Hopi reservations, the firefighters' evening campground presentations to North Rim tourists, fire school, and 'Abner' the fire lookout (whom you may recognize if you are familiar with the well-known writers about the Southwest). All in all, a natural page-turner, but as I said, things sure have changed a lot since the 1970s (sigh...)

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