Year of the Fires: The Story of the Great Fires Of 1910 / Edition 2

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More About This Textbook

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780878425440
  • Publisher: Mountain Press Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2008
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 325
  • Sales rank: 829,049
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2001

    All's Fair in Forest Fires and War

    The ominous start of the 2001 fire season and the runaway burns in Arizona and New Mexico the previous summer provide extra incentives to read this book. It is timely, informative, and fundamentally sound on scholarship. Pyne quickly squelches any misguided romanticism with tales of political intrigue and bureaucratic infighting at the highest levels of the Forest Service while untrained, undisciplined, adventure seekers, non-English speaking immigrants, and hobos are impressed into service on the fire lines at $0.25/hr and three meals a day. A few of these motley crews were led by a few tough, experienced professionals like Ed Pulaski; other 'officers' were fresh out of Yale School of Forestry. The reader senses the fear, is covered with soot, gags on the smoke, feels the searing heat, and asks why were they there? The Forest Service leadership was overly opportunistic and underestimated its adversary. Fire suppression as an easy route to public support and congressional funding. It was a can't-lose issue. Accessible small fires were easy to control. The Service could claim victory after victory, even if the foe was woefully outclassed, did little or no lasting damage, and in a positive way, reduced the probability of larger fires in the future. The unstoppable and very dangerous nature of big fires that develop their own convective winds was unrecognized or ignored. Pyne's analogy between fire fighting and war was insightful. Both demand immediate frontline actions/decisions, and are not well served by official communiqués from far-away offices that show little or no comprehension of the situation. I was pleased to see that John Wesley Powell, given his encyclopedic knowledge of western landscapes and ways of the American Indian, recognized the logic and land-management value of light burning under conditions that favored slowly smoldering ground fires. I was not aware of the vigorous debate concerning fire and what today we would call its ecological value that preceded the suppress-all-fires-creed adopted in the early years of the Forest Service. In retrospect, that decision solidified public support and continued funding for the National Forests and the Forest Service, but was bad forest management, cost unnecessary injuries and deaths, and is excessively expensive. Many decades would pass before the new science of ecology would help us rediscover the 'values' of fire, and force Smoky the Bear to reformulate his public image. Despite severe problems, the Service made a valiant effort to identify and locate victims, survivors, and their next of kin. Still, the author chronicled too many examples of bureaucratic inertia and injustice. The poignant descriptions of Ed Pulaski, in his later years tending graves of the victims, help us remember an event the Service would rather forget. Those with interests in forestry policy, the National Forests, and wilderness preservation will enjoy the book and get a good education in fire ecology.

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    Posted July 29, 2009

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    Posted December 26, 2009

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