Take Ten: Wildfires

Photo from blm.gov.

It’s definitely wildfire season out West – in Idaho as of today, crews are battling 9 fires. The closest one, the Sharps Fire is less than 80 miles away from Twin Falls, which makes us a little more aware than usual. Well, in addition to the haze and smoke coming from the Oregon and California fires.

With this on our mind, we thought we’d take a look at books that focus on wildfires – the men and women who fight them, the policies that have helped or hindered the fight, and, of course, the aftermath. Here’s a list of titles that will help you understand the chaos that is wildfire.


The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America – Timothy Egan

  • Narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire of August, 1910, and Teddy Roosevelt’s pioneering conservation efforts that helped turn public opinion permanently in favor of the forests, though it changed the mission of the forest service with consequences felt in the fires of today.

Fire and Ashes: On the Front Lines of American Wildfire – John N. Maclean

  • A history of American wildfires recounts the most significant fires, sharing front-line stories, past and present firefighting strategies, and the apparent increase in fire occurrence and intensity in recent years.

Fire in the Heart: A Memoir of Friendship, Loss, and Wildfire – Mary Emerick

  • A wildland firefighter describes how she became a stronger, braver person by battling for survival and making tough choices in her life-threatening line of work that has taken her from the swamps of Florida to the interior of Alaska.

Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future – Edward Struzik

  • In the spring of 2016, the world watched as wildfire ravaged the Canadian town of Fort McMurray. Firefighters named the fire “the Beast.” It seemed to be alive with destructive energy, and they hoped never to see anything like it again. Yet it’s not a stretch to imagine we will all soon live in a world in which fires like the Beast are commonplace. In Firestorm, Edward Struzik confronts this new reality, offering a deftly woven tale of science, economics, politics, and human determination.

My Lost Brothers: The Untold Story by the Yarnell Hill Fire’s Lone Survivor – Brendan McDonough

  • The sole survivor of the 2013 fire in Yarnell, Arizona, recalls the natural disaster that took the lives of 19 firefighters who were trained specifically to battle wildfires.

On the Fireline: Living and Dying with Wildland Firefighters – Matthew Desmond

  • Journeys inside the dangerous world of wildland firefighters to explore the reasons why men and women across the country risk their lives for low pay to fight forest fires, detailing the hazards and hardships of their career, the everyday facets of their lives, and the uniquely close bonds they form amongst themselves.

Smoke Jumping on the Western Fire Line: Conscientious Objectors During World War II – Mark Matthews

  • The story of the World War II conscientious objectors who volunteered for Civilian Public Service as U.S. Forest Service smoke jumpers is told in this history that reveals a little-known dimension of American pacifism.

Tending Fire: Coping with America’s Wildland Fires – Stephen J. Pyne

  • From experience with a “hotshot” crew fighting fires at Grand Canyon National Park over many seasons, Pyne (life sciences, Arizona State U.) situates US debates over let burn/controlled burn fire management policies for public lands in historical and ecological contexts.

The Year Yellowstone Burned: A Twenty-Five Year Perspective – Jeff Henry

  • A former National Park Service ranger details the origins and progression of the Yellowstone fires of 1988 as well as the impact of these fires on the landscape, both then and in the years since.

Young Men and Fire – Norman Maclean

  • A witness to the Montana Mann Gulch fire of 1949 explores the mysteries of the tragedy, with eyewitness accounts, new evidence, and research from fire scientists.


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