August 25, 2020
Stephen Pyne’s Op-Ed in The Los Angeles Times addresses the current wildfire explosion in California and across the globe in recent times, offering a warning of the very fire-inflicted future ahead of us.
“The big payoff against contagion comes from systemic preparations. Emergency medicine can cope with a coronavirus surge only if other work flattens the curve of infection. Emergency firefighting can cope with outbreaks on the scale of California’s only if we address that fraction of climate, fuels and ignitions that remain within our reach.
We can eliminate obvious points of contact, such as powerline failures during Santa Ana and Diablo winds. We must tend to landscapes with pre-existing conditions — drained by drought, covered in feral fuels, buffeted by high winds — that can push mundane outbreaks toward lethal outcomes. We must promote community fire-wellness programs and practice routine watchfulness to reduce vulnerability.”
Read the entire piece here.
Stephen J. Pyne is an emeritus professor at Arizona State University. He is the author of more than 30 books, mostly on wildland fire and its history but also dealing with the history of places and exploration.
Pyne’s latest volume with the University of Arizona Press is To the Last Smoke, which offers a unique and sweeping view of the nation’s fire scene by distilling observations on Florida, California, the Northern Rockies, the Great Plains, the Southwest, the Interior West, the Northeast, Alaska, the oak woodlands, and the Pacific Northwest into a single, readable volume. The anthology functions as a color-commentary companion to the play-by-play narrative offered in Pyne’s Between Two Fires: A Fire History of Contemporary America. The series is Pyne’s way of “keeping with it to the end,” encompassing the directive from his rookie season to stay with every fire “to the last smoke.”