Transforming the Landscape in an Instant and Over Time

in americaworld

The largest fire in Arizona’s history is still burning as we post this piece, and all signs point to a very active fire season ahead.

Given the central role of fire in shaping the Western landscape, the Land Library long ago committed to building as strong a collection of fire-related titles as possible. Early on, we realized that the work of environmental historian Stephen Pyne was the place to begin as we pieced together our collection. Stephen Pyne spent fifteen seasons as a firefighter on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, between 1967 and 1981. Since that first-hand expereince, Pyne has written over a dozen books on fire, including two comprehensive classics, pictured above: Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire, and World Fire: The Culture of Fire on Earth.

And here’s three more books from Stephen Pyne:

Fire on the Rim: A Firefighter’s Season at the Grand Canyon (Pyne’s own memoir), Vestal Fire: An Environmental History, Told Through Fire, of Europe and Europe’s Encounter with the World, Smokechasing (a collection of over thirty fire-related essays).

For more on fire, the Land Library strongly recommends the following volumes from our shelves:

rocky mtsforgotten
Fire Ecology in Rocky Mountain Landscapes by William L. Baker, Forgotten Fires: Native Americans and the Transient Wilderness by Omer C. Stewart (a history of Native American use of fire to manage plant and animal communities).

young menegan
Two Classic Accounts of Historic Western Fires: Young Men and Fire, Norman Maclean’s account of the tragic 1949 Mann Gulch, Montana fire (a book that occupied the last fourteen years of Maclean’s life), The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire That Saved America, Timothy Egan’s riveting account of the massive 1910 Blow-Up. The Big Burn also supplies a concise history of the early days of the U.S. Forest Service, under the leadership of the remarkable Gifford Pinchot.

But, after the fires die down, what comes next??

Thanks to adventuresome seeds and spores, life comes back after most wildland fires. The Land Library’s latest acquisition presents the story of forest recovery following a major Australian conflagration: Forest Phoenix: How a Great Forest Recovers After Wildfire by David Lindenmayer,

Our favorite subset of fire books has also produced some of fire’s best literary works — the wilderness memoirs of fire lookouts. For more on these one-of-a-kind books, you can take a look at one of our earlier posts!

Slow the Clock, Sharpen the Senses


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