Wildfire and Americans is a passionate, deeply informed appeal for us to acknowledge that wildfire is not a fire problem but a people problem. There are no natural disasters, only people in disastrous circumstances. Many Americans are in the wrong places, channeled there by wrong policies. Roger G. Kennedy has pieced together the untold history of the Cold War–era policies that deliberately emptied America’s cities and subsidized the suburban and exurban encroachment into a dangerous landscape that is becoming increasingly precarious with global warming. Kennedy’s understanding of the United States’ history of transgressing nature’s limits, his grasp of how politicians and industries stand to gain by leaving the problem unsolved, his familiarity with the science of fire, and, finally, his faith-grounded conviction regarding our moral responsibility toward both our environment and our fellow human beings make Wildfire and Americans more than a history of policies gone terribly awry—it is also a plan of action to reverse more than fifty years of wrong-headed and misguided policy.
“Mr. Kennedy's book, Wildfire and Americans, tells engrossing tales of the American experience with fire and makes an array of recommendations for dealing with fire threats, but his thinking applies to far more than burning brush or timber.”—Cornelia Dean, New York Times
The Sunday Oregonian
- Edward Wolf
“In this age of climate change, millions of Americans confront hazards of fire (and flood) for which they are ill-prepared. . . . Roger Kennedy seeks to stir his fellow citizens to action to save ‘a beautiful and lovely world’ at risk—and thereby save themselves.”—Edward Wolf, Sunday Oregonian
“Wildfire and Americans should be required reading for all elected officials, policymakers, the firefighting community, and people living in or near harm's way.”—Mike Dombeck, former chief of the U.S. Forest Service and former director of the Bureau of Land Management
Congressman Earl Blumenauer
“The impending disaster in the ‘flame zone’ could make Hurricane Katrina's devastation look tame by comparison, and historian and former National Park Service director Roger Kennedy is the perfect person to sound the alarm.”—Oregon congressman Earl Blumenauer
“Equal parts detective story, Cold War mystery, environmental history lesson, and policy treatise, Roger Kennedy’s Wildfire and Americans offers an unsurpassed investigation into the root causes of runaway wildfires.”—Don Chen, executive director, Smart Growth America
Parris N. Glendening
“Americans seem increasingly determined to locate in the path of natural disaster, be it flood or fire. Kennedy’s almost renaissance review of the dangers and the solutions is must reading, especially in light of Katrina and the recent great fires of the West and Southwest.”—Parris N. Glendening, governor of Maryland, 1995–2003
“It's the most enjoyable thing I've read in a along time [and] will simply require everyone to get serious about the intellectual and historical dimensions of our fire landscape, which is to say, ourselves. Well done!”—Stephen Pyne, author of Tending Fire
Roger G. Kennedy is director emeritus of the National Museum of American History and former director of the National Park Service. He has written ten books and coedited Living on the Edge: Economic, Institutional and Management Perspectives on Wildfire Hazard in the Urban Interface.