The Northern Rockies: A Fire Survey

The Northern Rockies: A Fire Survey

by Stephen J. Pyne


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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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780816533510
Publisher: University of Arizona Press
Publication date: 09/13/2016
Series: To the Last Smoke Series
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 1,246,053
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Stephen J. Pyne is a historian in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The Ice: A Journey to Antarctica, How the Canyon Became Grand: A Short History, and Voyager: Exploration, Space, and the Third Great Age of Discovery. He is also the author of Between Two Fires: A Fire History of Contemporary America, published by the University of Arizona Press.

Table of Contents

Series Preface: To the Last Smoke ix

Preface to Volume 3 xi

Map of the Northern Rockies 2

Prologue: Where the Mountains Roar 3

Portal: Lolo Pass 7

The Missoula Matrix 11

Why Boise Is Not the National Center for Fire 15

The Paradoxes of Wilderness Fire 21

Fire's Call of the Wild 33

Fire by Parallax 44

The Embers Will Find a Way 54

Portal: Gates of the Mountains 69

Young Men, Old Men, and Fire 73

How I Came to Mann Gulch 82

What Makes a Fire Significant? 91

The Big Blowup 98

The Second Big Blowup 107

The Other Big Burn 115

Epilogue: The Northern Rockies Between Two Fires 125

Note on Sources 133

Notes 135

Index 141

Illustrations follow page 62

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