This book tells the story of one fire in Southern California. It's not really a battle to save Southern California, only one small part. But laying the sub-title aside, it's a good inside story on how they fight a big fire.
As I read the book I find myself with several related but almost random thoughts.
First, these kinds of fires were beautifully described in John McPhee's book 'The Control of Nature,' (recommended reading) along with other things that people do that contradicts what nature wants (think New Orleans). This book is much better in discussing the fire fighting efforts, but McPhee covers other things like the Mississippi river wants to change course but the Army Corp of Engineers is keeping it where it is.
Second, when people want to live in areas like this, they should at least bear in mind what might happen. Some houses were built of fireproof materials (wood shake roofs are especially bad), remove brush from being close to their house, and so on. These houses survived.
Third, the mountain right across the valley from my house hasn't burned for 20 to 30 years. The fuel from all those years is sitting there waiting for a good lightening strike or thrown away cigarette.
Fourth, one thing mentioned in the book was firefighter management not wanting to call the airborne water tankers to put water on the fire. Here some six or seven agencies (National Forest, State Forest, Bureau of Land Management, etc.) have gotten together to fund the water tankers. The costs are automatically split between the agencies regardless of where the fire is. I wonder if this is a result of the problems discussed in this book.
All in all, this is a 'cannot put down book' that anyone living in the fire prone West should read.