America’s Fires: A Historical Context for Policy and Practice

By Douglas W. MacCleery

*2011 Indie Book Award Finalist [PDF]

America does not have a fire problem. It has many fire problems. The policy of fire exclusion through most of the 20th century seemed successful at first but eventually lead to larger, more intense, and damaging fires. By the mid-1970s federal agencies pulled back from the fire suppression model and embraced a mix of fire practices, including forms of prescribed burning and let-burn policies.

The 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park carried fire issues to the public, advertising the ecological significance of free-burning fire and the dilemmas of trying to manage it. In America’s Fires, Stephen Pyne, the world’s leading fire historian, reviews the historical context of our fire issues and policies. The resulting analysis shows why it is imperative that the nation review its policies toward wildland fires and find ways to live with them more intelligently.

This revised edition was published with support from David L. Luke III, The National Forest Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, MeadWestvaco Corporation, and the Lynn W. Day Endowment for Forest History Publications.

Stephen J. Pyne is a professor of history at Arizona State University. He specializes in environmental history and the history of wildfire around the world.

© 2010 Forest History Society

94 pp.; 18 photos; 33 maps and figures.

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