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Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire (Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books) Paperback – March 1, 1997
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"On rare occasions, the historical literature is enriched by the introduction of a broad new field for study, by a book that dramatically expands the boundaries of scholarly investigation. Stephen Pyne’s Fire in America is such a book. It achieves the Promethean goal of bringing fire to history."―Science
"This unusual and imaginative work takes a phenomenon that seems at first glance to be so elemental as to have no history and no evolution, and gives it a dynamic role in the drama of American advance from frontier through agricultural to industrial society. By integrating the history of fire with ecology, agriculture, logging, and resource management, Pyne has made a unique contribution to the history of science and technology, as well as to cultural history in general."―Isis
"Stephen J. Pyne compels our admiration for his gargantuan ambition and richly informed intelligence. He tells us more than anyone else to date has about the role of fire in the landscape, tells us we have been wrong in assuming a pristine state of nature before the white man’s invasion, tells us what fire has meant to the rise of civilization and this nation. No one interested in environmental history can afford to ignore this massive achievement."―Journal of American History
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As a child I gleefully participated in the annual raking of fallen tree leaves into piles and their subsequent destruction by fire. It seemed part of the natural order of things and was great fun. Although the community that I grew up in has long since banned the practice, it never occurred to me to reflect on the cultural norms behind the practice until I read this book. It is rather enlightening and humbling to see one's own behavior examined with the level of detachment and dispassion that an anthropologist might bring to some unfamiliar and seemingly bizarre practices of some isolated aboriginal tribe!
This book is no polemic, nor does it have any obvious agenda. I am unaware of any controversy over its contents. This is not to say that the author's views are not fresh and interesting.
The author is highly knowledgeable about his subject and previously published a highly acclaimed book about a tragic forest fire-fighting incident that resulted in the deaths of several fire-fighters. This book does not have the high drama of that work, but it is very well written and stimulating. A very good read, in my estimation.