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Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.
In the past five years, the Southwest U. S., and in particular Southern California, has suffered three seasons of crisis-level wildfires; 2003 alone saw the loss of 32 lives, nearly 4,000 homes and buildings, and over 1,100 square miles of burning land; in 2007, firestorms "quickly surpassed imagination within hours." In a rapidly moving, thriller-like account, ecology writer Porter, who lost his own home to a 2003 blaze, details the human, economic, and environmental impact of this ongoing problem, looking to precipitate change. Porter profiles wildfires and their causes, focusing early on the arsonist; he includes a frank, revealing interview with an anonymous, self-identified perpetrator. Also revealing is his investigation into wildfires' impact on global warming: "a potential feedback loop that could accelerate warming beyond current predictions." With reduced precipitation over long periods of years, destruction of trees by insects, and insufficient land management and fire control, Porter concludes, gravely, that the "threat of wildfires is real and growing." His lively narration and detailed stories from the ground, however, should catch on with a wide audience, particularly in the Southwest.
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