Cover image for A season of fire : four months on the firelines in the American West
A season of fire : four months on the firelines in the American West
Gantenbein, Doug.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : J.P. Tarcher/Penquin, [2003]

Physical Description:
292 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
SD421.32.W47 G36 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



On July 10, 2001, in northern Washington state, a rain of burning embers trapped two civilians and thirteen firefighters in a steeply walled canyon. With a roar heard thirty miles away, flames and black smoke swept overhead-leaving four firefighters dead. This tragic story lies at the heart of A Season of Fire, a compelling narrative that begins in mid-May 2001 with dire early weather predictions, follows the training of thousands of new firefighters, and culminates in mid-September as the year's final blazes are extinguished and controversy erupts over the July deaths. Journalist Douglas Gantenbein takes readers behind the scenes of smokejumpers' training and travels to the locations of the summer's most dramatic fires: Wyoming's Jackson Fire, in which millions of dollars were spent in an attempt to save a group of million-dollar homes; the Arthur Fire, which closed Yellowstone Park's eastern entrance for two weeks; and the Fridley Fire, which torched 50,000 acres of Montana woodlands in less than six hours. In a fascinating exploration of the science and economics of firefighting, Gantenbein dramatically depicts the tinderbox that is the American West.

Author Notes

Douglas Gantenbein has written for publications including The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Audubon, Sports Illustrated, Popular Science, and Backpacker. Author of the Outside magazine column "The Gear Guy," he teaches non-fiction writing at the University of Washington and is a member of Seattle Mountain Rescue, the oldest and largest volunteer wilderness rescue organization in the United States. He lives in Newcastle, Washington

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gantenbein follows the forest fire season of summer 2001, but in the process he also examines the evolution of firefighting techniques and the history of forests. Today's American forests, owing largely to changes in logging procedures and decades of you-can-prevent-forest-fires safety messages, are thicker than ever before. Cycle fires, small fires that would periodically thin the forests and ultimately protect them from the bigger blazes that could wipe them out, have been substantially eliminated. Forests are crowded, and a crowded forest is one that can burn quickly and devastatingly, making firefighting an ever more dangerous occupation. Nicely connecting the historical material to the contemporary survey, Gantenbein examines some of summer 2001's most spectacular fires, including the Washington State blaze that took the lives of four firefighters. This is both a fascinating, detailed look at the men and women who risk their lives to protect the forests and a provocative call to action, stressing that our countryside might be in a lot more danger than we ever suspected. --David Pitt Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking book, Gantenbein, a writer for Sports Illustrated and Outside magazines, traveled from state to state covering major fires during the summer of 2001 to show "the strengths and weaknesses of how wildland fire is fought in the Western United States." Gantenbein has the knack for presenting complex material in a direct and exciting style, and as he explains the intricate differences among fires in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park and Montana, he conveys an amazing amount of material related to fires and firefighting: the use of Pulaskis, "the combination hoe and pick that is the essential tool in the firefighting arsenal"; why the Ponderosa pine is more dangerous than the Douglas fir; and the key differences between the physically exhausting work of smokejumpers and the elite hotshots, who dig the fireline. Gantenbein's detailed observations about both the science and the economics of fires and firefighting help him forcefully demonstrate that "the continuing war on forest fires is a waste of time, money and lives," and that new approaches to thinking about fires are needed to "get beyond the current poisoned atmosphere between environmentalists, the Forest Service, and the logging industry." (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Season of Firep. 1
Chapter 1 Smoke Signalsp. 9
Chapter 2 The Ponderosa Problemp. 25
Chapter 3 Red Cardp. 39
Chapter 4 Thirtymilep. 55
Chapter 5 Trappedp. 71
Chapter 6 Fire Labp. 91
Chapter 7 No Place Like Homep. 109
Chapter 8 Yellowstonep. 121
Chapter 9 Hotshotsp. 139
Chapter 10 Fire Townp. 165
Chapter 11 Fridley Firep. 195
Chapter 12 The Fires Next Timep. 227
Chapter 13 Finding a Fixp. 243
Chapter 14 Mopping Upp. 257
Acknowledgmentsp. 281
Indexp. 285