Synopses & Reviews
During the summer of 2000, Americans from coast to coast witnessed the worst fire season in recorded history. Daily news reports brought dramatic images of vast swaths of land going up in smoke, from the mountains of Montana and Wyoming, to the scrublands of Texas, to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where a controlled burn gone awry threatened forests, homes, and even our nation's nuclear secrets. As they have for centuries, wildfires captured our attention and our imagination, reminding us of the power of the natural forces that shape our world.
In Wildfire: A Reader nature writer and wildland firefighter Alianor True gathers together for the first time some of the finest stories and essays ever written about wildfire in America. From Mark Twain to Norman Maclean to Edward Abbey, writers featured here depict and record wildfires with remarkable depth and clarity. An ecological perspective is well represented through the works of John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and John McPhee. Ed Engle, Louise Wagenknecht, and Gretchen Yost, firefighters from the front lines, give us exciting first-person perspectives, reliving their on-the-ground encounters with forest fires.
The works gathered in Wildfire not only explore the sensory and aesthetic aspects of fire, but also highlight how much attitudes have changed over the past 200 years. From Native Americans who used fire as a tool, to early Americans who viewed it as a frightening and destructive force, to Aldo Leopold and other conservationists whose ideas caused us to rethink the value and role of fire, this rich collection is organized around those shifts in thinking.
Capturing the fury and the heat of a raging inferno, or the quiet emergence ofwildflowers sprouting from ashes, the writings included in Wildfire represent a vital and compelling addition to the nature writing and natural history bookshelf.
About the Author
Alianor True has fought fires in recent years for Grand Canyon National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Sequoia National Park. Her essays have appeared in anthologies including American Nature Writing: 1998 (Sierra Club Books) and American Nature Writing: 2000 (Oregon State University Press).
She spent all four of her Cornell University undergraduate years (1994-1997) as a firefighter. Instead of living in the dorms, she lived at the fire station. For three years, she was the only female firefighter. She spent her summers fighting wildland fires in Grand Canyon National Park, Big Cypress National Reserve, Sequoia National Park, and with the Las Vegas Bureau of Land Management.
True, still a firefighter and only 26, has a passion for the science and history of fire. Her curiosity for the changing historical perspectives of fire is what motivated her to compile and edit Wildfire: A Reader.
Table of Contents
Introduction, Fire from the Sky
Part I. Big Country, Big Fires
Cherokee Tale, Myths of the Cherokee: The First Fire
Miwok Tale, How Tol'-le-loo Got the Fire for the Mountain People
Meriwether Lewis, Excerpt for The Journals of the Expedition
under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark
Washington Irving, Selection from A Tour on the Prairies
Henry David Thoreau, Selection from The Allegash and
John Muir, Selection from John of the Mountains
John Muir, Selections from My First Summer in the Sierra
Mark Twain, Selection from Roughing It
Stephen J. Pyne, The Big Blowup
Part II. Of Fire and the Landscape
Aldo Leopold, Grass, Brush, Timber and Fire in Southeastern Arizona
Norman Maclean, Selection from Young Men and Fire
Margaret Millar, After the Fire
Roger Caras, Selection from Panther!
Edward Abbey, Fire Lookout: Numa Ridge
Ed Engle, Fire
Part III. Fire as Foe, Fire as Friend
Ted Williams, Incineration of Yellowstone
Michael Thoele, Selection from Fireline: Summer Battles
of the West
John McPhee, Selection from The Control of Nature
John Maclean, Selection from Fire on the Mountain
Rick Bass, The Fires Next Time
Louise Wagenknecht, Pride and Glory of Firefighting Is
Hard to Resist
Alianor True, Firefinder
Gretchen Dawn Yost, First Burn
Keith Easthouse, The Shape of Things to Come
About the Editor