Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & Year of the Fires & r & by Stephen Pyne & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he story of the "Big Blowup," the huge August 1910 wildfire that burned three million acres in the Idaho Panhandle and western Montana is now well-known. And so is the saga of Wallace Forest Ranger Ed Pulaski, who saved 45 firefighters surrounded by flames and smoke by leading them into an old, abandoned mine tunnel, where they spent a harrowing night while the firestorm blew past them.





Arizona State University fire historian Stephen Pyne initially told those stories -- and those of other major wildfires that blackened the skies that year -- in his 2001 book Year of the Fires. Pyne's book -- recently reissued by Mountain Press Publishing Company -- is worth the read just for those. But readers who are also interested in the politics and history of U.S. fire suppression policies will also find gold here, for it shows how America's attitudes toward forests and fire have changed in 100 years.





In the days of Teddy Roosevelt, when the government was setting aside hundreds of thousands of forested acres for use by the public -- some of them our current national forests -- fire was seen as a menace. And it was everywhere, used as a tool to turn forests into farms and for other land uses. Millions of acres burned -- intentionally and unintentionally -- every year. Eventually, conservationists like Gifford Pinchot vowed to make aggressive fire suppression the federal policy. That led to the creation of the Forest Service, Smokey Bear and an all-out assault on forest fires.





But critics argue that policy also led to today's unnaturally crowded, diseased federal forests. Some believe the wildfires we hear about every summer and fall are so intense because of the buildup of fuels in the forests, fuels that used to be removed through low-intensity burns. The Forest Service has in the last few years reversed course and brought prescribed fire back into its toolbox. But that too has its problems. With people now living at the edges of those forests, the last thing they want is to breathe that smoke. Oh, and there are questions about how that burning contributes to climate change.





Stephen Pyne's book provides us with timely history and policy lessons.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Court of Understanding
  • Court of Understanding

    Spokane's felony Mental Health Court provides a framework for renewed lives
    • Dec 23, 2014
  • A Growing Wave
  • A Growing Wave

    More patients join the lawsuit against Washington's psychiatric hospitals; plus, a new report examining Spokane police
    • Dec 23, 2014
  • Cease-Fire
  • Cease-Fire

    What will Congress' new tolerance for medical marijuana mean for people facing federal drug charges?
    • Dec 23, 2014
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
A T. Rex Named Sue

A T. Rex Named Sue @ Mobius Science Center

Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 4

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Game Changer

    Since Condon became mayor, Jan Quintrall has been responsible for some of the biggest changes in the city of Spokane — and some of its biggest controversies
    • Dec 17, 2014
  • Let Us Breathe

    Spokane joins national protests over the failure to indict white officers for killing black civilians
    • Dec 10, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation