Friday, April 14, 2017
What I've Read: Land on Fire by Gary Ferguson
I am absolutely fascinated by fire. I don't know why, exactly, and it's not in a pyromaniac sense - I, quite reasonably, fear fire - but the human relationship with fire is a surprisingly rich area of history. I went through a phase where I was heavily researching the history of arson investigation and talking about it with anyone who I thought might care (spoiler: no one did). I then moved on to volcanology. I then read a longform article about the Yarnell Hill fire and devoured it in one sitting, ignoring the pile of work next to me.
So when I saw Land on Fire in the NetGalley offerings, I hit "request" immediately.
Wildfires seem to dominate the news cycles every summer, with hot, arid conditions, lightning strikes, and human error all contributing to what can be a truly devastating force of nature. Land on Fire brings the world of wildfires and everything involved with them to life, giving a comprehensive overview of everything from what causes them to the intricacies of how they're fought. With its focus centered on the American West, Land on Fire steers itself away from jargon, covering the sometimes complex information in a way that's clear to people who might be unfamiliar with the biology or bureaucracy involved in fire suppression.
There are also stunning photographs peppered throughout, providing astonishing visual aids to accompany the text. Some of the information might be a little dry or dense at times, but Ferguson does well to make it come alive, even including specific historical examples to illustrate the text. When discussing the natural world, in particular, Ferguson's prose is rich with the lushness appropriate for describing a living, breathing forest.
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in fire, natural history, biology, climate science, or fire-fighting.
Thank you to NetGalley and Timber Press for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.