Between Two Fires

A Fire History of Contemporary America

Stephen J. Pyne (Author)
Paperback ($33.95), Ebook ($29.95) Buy
From a fire policy of prevention at all costs to today's restored burning, Between Two Fires is America's history channeled through the story of wildland fire management. Stephen J. Pyne tells of a fire revolution that began in the 1960s as a reaction to simple suppression and single-agency hegemony, and then matured into more enlightened programs of fire management. It describes the counterrevolution of the 1980s that stalled the movement, the revival of reform after 1994, and the fire scene that has evolved since then.

Pyne is uniquely qualified to tell America’s fire story. The author of more than a score of books, he has told fire’s history in the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe, and the Earth overall. In his earlier life, he spent fifteen seasons with the North Rim Longshots at Grand Canyon National Park.

In Between Two Fires, Pyne recounts how, after the Great Fires of 1910, a policy of fire suppression spread from America’s founding corps of foresters into a national policy that manifested itself as a costly all-out war on fire. After fifty years of attempted fire suppression, a revolution in thinking led to a more pluralistic strategy for fire’s restoration. The revolution succeeded in displacing suppression as a sole strategy, but it has failed to fully integrate fire and land management and has fallen short of its goals.

Today, the nation’s backcountry and increasingly its exurban fringe are threatened by larger and more damaging burns, fire agencies are scrambling for funds, firefighters continue to die, and the country seems unable to come to grips with the fundamentals behind a rising tide of megafires. Pyne has once again constructed a history of record that will shape our next century of fire management. Between Two Fires is a story of ideas, institutions, and fires. It’s America’s story told through the nation’s flames.
“An excellent case study of the difficulties in translating thoughtful policies and sound research findings into on-the-ground land management programs and practices.”—Tom Nichols, retired National Park Service Chief of Fire and Aviation Management

“…Between Two Fires…is particularly important for the current generation of firefighters, and for those now interested in the endeavor, such as the public and academia. I can think of no other book existing that I could hand to a young firefighter and say—here, read this, and understand how we got to this place… The writing style is unique and crisp, and solidly referenced. In fact, the reference section alone makes the book worth having. Pyne clips along a rapid pace, wasting very few words along the way. This narrative style makes the history engrossing, and while reading it you find yourself transported into the echoing corridors and around the hefty tables of decision making…I firmly believe that the material is reachable for any reader who is genuinely interested in learning about the fascinating and complex history of wildfire.”—Stephen D. Fillmore, Fire

“…an accessible entry point into the kaleidoscopic set of shifting interests that characterize the relationships of fire to the Southwest.”—Jeannette Vaught, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“Will be the history of record for wildfire management for the next several decades.”—Lincoln Bramwell, Chief Historian, USDA Forest Service

“It is safe to say that Pyne knows as much, if not more, about the nature of wildland fire as anyone on the planet.”—Environmental History

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