An expert’s report from the front lines where wildland fires keep getting hotter, bigger, and more dangerous to the men and women who fight them In 2002, more than seven million acres were burned at a fire-fighting cost of over a billion dollars. Are wilderness fires now a tragic and enduring feature of the American landscape? John N. Maclean, author of the acclaimed Fire on the Mountain, offers a view from the front lines, combining action-packed storytelling with moving insights about firefighters and informed analysis of firefighting strategy past and present.
Beginning with a riveting account of the worst case of arson in wildfire history, the 1953 Rattlesnake Fire in Mendocino National Forest, which claimed the lives of fifteen firefighters, Maclean explains the mysterious dynamics of fire, and the courage and techniques required to combat it. One such mystery underlines the life- threatening 1999 Sadler Fire in Nevada when a line of flames suddenly blew up, trapping six firefighters mistakenly placed in harm’s way. For the final story Maclean returns to Mann Gulch, the site of his father’s classic Young Men and Fire, to interview the last survivor of the worst disaster in the history of smoke jumping. From it we understand why fatal fires burn for generations. Offering a prescient view of the inevitable conflict between people, property, and nature, Fire and Ashes presents a riveting and emotional story, one that in many ways John Maclean was destined to tell.