The past 50 years have witnessed remarkable changes in American fire policy, institutions, sciences, and practices. Yet the standard history, Fire in America, ends in the 1970s. It misses the momentous events that make America’s great cultural revolution on fire. But more is at stake than missing years. The revolution changed the storyline. It deserves its own narrative.
The federal agencies have generously agreed to fund a sequel study that will survey the history from 1960 to 2011. The project will result in two books. Between Two Fires: A Fire History of America, 1960-2011 will relate the basic narrative. To the Last Smoke will assemble an anthology of essays to highlight particular places, personalities, and practices. Between Two Fires will thus serve as the play-by-play record, and To the Last Smoke as the color commentary, as organized around regions.
Shift plan for 2013: I have completed a draft of the grand narrative, which came in 50% longer than I intended. Come 2014 I’ll make a final round of research travels, hotspotting places I missed during my first recon and mopping up some others. I’ll complete the Southwest suite and some sites elsewhere that eluded my first circuit. My expectation is that the full project will be completed by the summer of 2014.
Thanks to FAM, Between Two Fires will be published by the Government Printing Office; most likely To the Last Smoke will join it. Because of their bulk, I’m seriously considering a much shorter, popular version of Between Two Fires (tentatively titled Friendly Fire, Feral Fire) published in a venue yet to be determined. My primary task, however, is to move the project texts into print.
Meanwhile, I have an essay on the New Jersey Pinelands, probably the country’s most famous unknown firescape [Bog and burn], two on the Yarnell Hill fire tragedy [After the fire; A Refusal to mourn the death, by fire, of a crew in Yarnell], and one on fire from the perspective of the Leopold wolf-kill site [Thinking like a burnt mountain].
The regional studies have proved informative and fun. I’d like to continue them after the project has formally concluded. It’s time Colorado, Utah, and Nevada entered the national narrative. And then there are the Lake States, the eastern oak woodlands, New England – and did anyone say Alaska?
Funding comes from the U.S. Forest Service, Department of the Interior, and Joint Fire Science Program.