Synopses & Reviews
On October 8, 1871, a wildfire of staggering immensity transformed the lumbering town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin (population 2,000), into a literal, burning hell. It was the deadliest fire in North American history. At least 1,200 people died, and the actual number of fatalities is unknown. Eighteen hundred square miles of woods, fields, and settlements were burned. By cruel coincidence, it was the very day and hour of the Great Chicago Fire.... The unlikely simultaneity of the two infernos has rendered Peshtigo unknown to most Americans.
April 2000: On the brink of one of the most ferocious fire seasons ever recorded, and faced with the challenge of commanding an elite attack helicopter team, wildland firefighter Peter Leschak discovers Father Pernin's written account of surviving the wildfire that devastated Peshtigo. As he takes us through Father Pernin's dangerous clash with the Great Peshtigo Fire, Leschak recounts his journey from a life preparing for the ministry to a career dedicated to fighting fires. In so doing, he breathes life into one of the most astounding and little-known disasters in American history and captures the sacred and mysterious pull of the fireground. From Father Pernin's struggle with an inferno so hot that not even the cold waters of the Peshtigo River guaranteed safety to the danger of today's frontline battles in America's wildlands, Ghosts of the Fireground weaves seamlessly between these compelling adventures, offering a breathtaking look at the awesome power of fire and the courageous and noble pursuit that is wildland firefighting.
“[Leschak] plunks us right down in the midst of the inferno, making us burst into sweat just reading about it.” Booklist
“Leschak is an acute observer with genuine affection for his material . . . a talented writer.” & #151;The New York Times Book Review
“...a walking testament to high-risk action.” Chicago Sun-Times
“[A] memoir of religious intensity and displaced belief.” Wall Street Journal
“Leschak does an excellent job of evoking both the terror and the majesty of a raging fire.” The New Yorker
In April 2000, firefighter Peter Leschak discovered the diary of Father Pernin, a survivor of a wildfire that hit Peshtigo, Wisconsin, in 1871. Here, Leschak presents Pernin's reflections during this little-known disaster, while Leschak's firsthand accounts of his own breathtaking frontline battles 130 years later provide lessons in courage and faith.
About the Author
Peter M. Leschak has been a firefighter in both wildland and municipal settings for more than twenty years. He's the author of several acclaimed works of nonfiction, including Letters from Side Lake and The Bear Guardian, winner of the Minnesota Book Award. Leschak has written for numerous periodicals, including Harper's, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, and Outdoor Life.