Fire and Ashes: On the Front Lines of American Wildfire
In 2002, more than seven million acres were burned at a fire-fighting cost of over a billion dollars. Are wilderness fires now a tragic and enduring feature of the American landscape? John N. Maclean, author of the acclaimed Fire on the Mountain, offers a view from the front lines, combining action-packed storytelling with moving insights about firefighters and informed analysis of firefighting strategy past and present. Beginning with a riveting account of the worst case of arson in wildfire history, the 1953 Rattlesnake Fire in Mendocino National Forest, which claimed the lives of fifteen firefighters, Maclean explains the mysterious dynamics of fire, and the courage and techniques required to combat it. One such mystery underlines the life- threatening 1999 Sadler Fire in Nevada when a line of flames suddenly blew up, trapping six firefighters mistakenly placed in harm’s way. For the final story Maclean returns to Mann Gulch, the site of his father’s classic Young Men and Fire, to interview the last survivor of the worst disaster in the history of smoke jumping. From it we understand why fatal fires burn for generations. Offering a prescient view of the inevitable conflict between people, property, and nature, Fire and Ashes presents a riveting and emotional story, one that in many ways John Maclean was destined to tell.
Text offers a view of wildfire fighting from the front lines, with insights about firefighters and analysis of firefighting strategy. Includes an account of the worst case of Arson in wildfire history, the 1953 Rattlesnake Fire in Mendocino National Forest. Author explains the mysterious dynamics of fire, and the courage and techniques required to combat it.
About the Author
John N. Maclean’s Fire on the Mountain was the MPBA bes nonfiction title of 1999. A Newspaper reporter and longtime student of wildfire, he assisted in the posthumous publication of his father, Norman Maclean’s, Young Men and Fire. He divides his time between Washington D.C., and Montana.
EVEN BETTER THAN THE FIRST, June 13, 2003
Maclean’s done it again, only this time he’s done it better. His first book, FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN, was and still is a popular book with wildland firefighters. This one, though, will be a must-own for the summer army of boots-and-nomex firefighters — and will surely be assigned as mandatory reading in many a fire training course. The collection of stories in FIRE AND ASHES proves up both Maclean’s dogged pursuit of history and his determined focus on accuracy gained from 30 years in journalism. Covering many thousands of miles, dozens of interviews, and with painstaking attention to detail in his writing, Maclean has crafted a book that puts his readers out on the fireline. Unlike many authors who try to write about wildfire, Maclean makes no lame allowances for readers unfamiliar with the language and culture of the firefighter. He just explains it for them. His recounting of the 1999 Sadler incident — in retrospect a problematic compilation of small "oops" decisions that resulted in near-disaster — is a chilling read when one considers how close it came to being a disaster like South Canyon. His "Short History of Wildland Fire" and glossary of fire terms will be a go-to resource for firefighters — structural and wildland both — and for anyone curious enough to read about or write about fire. It’s Maclean’s reconstruction of the 1953 Rattlesnake Fire, though, that stands as the highlight of the book. It’s a can’t-put-down story that’s finally been accurately researched and told (and illustrated), about a fire that’s been a benchmark for safety lessons and fire behavior training for 50 years. Young men and women in fire camps across the West — and the older ones too — will be packing this book along in their red bags this summer, and well they should.