Synopses & Reviews
As wildfires blazed throughout the western United States in the summer of 2000, news organizations from across the country sought the insights of fire expert Stephen J. Pyne. Among the things he told them about were the many parallels between the fires of 2000 and the Great Fires that raged nearly a century ago. Here Pyne tells the whole story of the catastrophic fires of 1910 and the indelible legacy they left behind. The Great Fires scorched millions of acres across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana; they destroyed mining camps and whole towns; their smoke darkened skies in New England; their soot fell on the ice of Greenland. Unlike fires before them, they received a massive and innovative response from the fledgling U.S. Forest Service. Drawing upon fresh archival material, Pyne chronicles that heroic and costly response, focusing on a two-day crisis, the Big Blowup of August 20-21, when the fires tripled in size and officially claimed the lives of seventy-eight firefighters.
Year of the Fires also tells the larger story of how American bureaucracies, railroads, political scandals, pioneering, ideas about nature, and reformist zeal collided with wind, drought, and wood to create the cataclysmic events of 1910, and how these events continue to shape the way Americans relate and react to wildfire. One of the great tales of Americans and their land, this history is an ideal read for fans of western history and of Young Men and Fire, Fire on the Mountain, and Jumping Fire.
"A dense and often exciting account, written inleisurely and mannered prose." Kirkus Reviews
The wildfires of the summer of 1910 scorched millions of acres in the western states, depositing soot as far away as Greenland. Through the experiences and words of rangers, soldiers, politicians, scientists, and the volunteers who fought the fires and were forever scarred by them, acclaimed historian and former forest fire fighter Stephen Pyne tells the story of that catastrophic year and its indelible legacy on the firefighting policies of today. Not only does Pyne explain how wildfires happen and how they are fought, he also chronicles the ongoing debate on the relative merits of firefighting versus "light burning." More than a memorable adventure tale, Year of the Fires
is the story of a profound event that continues to shape American life.
"Year of the Fires is a pleasure to read." (The New York Review of Books)
"Powerful and absorbing." (Austin American-Statesman)
About the Author
Stephen J. Pyne is professor of history at Arizona State University, a MacArthur Foundation fellow, and winner of the 1995 Los Angeles Times Robert Kirsch Award for his contribution to American letters. He is the author of ten acclaimed books on environmental history, including The Ice, which was a New York Times Editor's Choice.