Photo Credit: See if your local school or library carries any wildland fire education books — and if not, consider asking if they could order a shelf copy of some of these back-to-school recommendations!

Practitioners of fire adapted communities often get tasked with leading field trips, lessons and presentations with local schools and youth groups. We usually see an uptick for these resource requests around the first few weeks of school. I remember scrambling to create lessons when I first started getting these requests. Then, to my delight, I found a “fire education box” that my partners at the San Juan Mountains Association had put together when I was working for Wildfire Adapted Partnership. Among the tree cookies, Fire Education Team cards and envelopes of lesson plans were a handful of brightly colored books. After creating numerous lesson plans for youth that went well beyond fire prevention, I started seeking out opportunities to share the materials found in the fire education box with the kids in my community. I quickly realized how effective the books were at visually conveying information.

The beauty of a good book is that it can offer a memorable story to an interested young reader or be a useful resource for a group. Whether you’re seeking out great stories or images to craft a lesson for a group of kids, stocking your local library with wildland fire books or looking for another way to share your passion for wildland fire with a special kid in your life, this reading list is a great place to start. It includes books I’ve found useful in my work with students of all ages and each book review includes an estimated relevant age range and how I’ve used them in my outreach efforts.

Book Recommendation for Young Readers

The Forest of Fire: A Wildfire Story
By Erik Ohlsen
Age Range: 3 – 8

This rhyming book has pretty, double-page spread artwork and tells the story of a forest that burns down and how the forest and community recover. It showcases reflective rhymes throughout:

And the land came alive, in places once gone.
The seeds of the ancients grew up with great brawn.
And the humans, we hope, will learn their mistake.
To keep forests healthy is a choice we all make.

The Forest of Fire is a great read-aloud book for preschool and elementary school youth because it weaves together prevention, preparedness, fire adaptation and forest health discussions with thoughtful expression.

Book Recommendations for Elementary and Middle School Readers

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This National Geographic Kids is a great wildfire resource for the classroom. Photo credit: Rebecca Samulski

National Geographic Kids: Wildfires
By Kathy Furgang
Age Range: 5-12

True to National Geographic style, this book has photographs that help tell the story. The book includes an introduction to fire, ignition sources, the fire triangle, types of fire, plant and animal adaptations and several examples of landscape renewal following fire. “Prescribed fire” even made it into the photo glossary. This is a great book to use as a photo resource. It might also catch a kids eye with its yellow binding and flaming cover! Because it offers multiple interactive features, it would make for a fun stand-alone activity with an elementary audience or spur further research opportunities with upper elementary or middle school youth.

The Charcoal Forest: How Fire Helps Animals and Plants 
By Beth A. Peluso
Age Range: 5-12

This book tells the story of plant and animal communities that have adapted to wildland fire. It includes twenty North American plants, animals, and fungi with beautiful artwork and fire stories about each, including the black-backed woodpecker, morel mushrooms, lodgepole pine, lung liverwort, elk, grizzly bears and more. This book also includes life cycle descriptions of each of the fire adapted species and a glossary with some good vocabulary words for elementary and middle school readers, like “cambium”, “camouflage”, “dormant”, and “protonema”.

This book goes well with plant and animal fire adaptation lessons. With a young elementary audience, I have enjoyed reading the book and then sharing pictures of a few examples of fire adapted species. I then have the kids act out the animals and how they might behave when faced with wildfire. Because this book offers a great teaching aid for more in-depth ecology and biology lessons on adaptation, it’s a worthwhile fire education resource for upper elementary and middle school age groups.

Book Recommendations for Upper Elementary Readers and Beyond

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Example graphic from The Book of Fire!

The Book of Fire!
By William H. Cottrell Jr.
Age Range: 9-99

This book has excellent graphics and explains fire science details in-depth and with uncomplicated terms. From the chemical reaction to fire behavior on the landscape, The Book of Fire! kept my ten year-old reading to the end. This book can help anyone understand fire science basics or be an aid for explaining fundamentals of how fire burns, from glowing combustion to firescapes. I have used the graphics in this book to show a variety of fire behavior concepts for elementary classes and professional workshops, alike. This book is a timeless essential in any fire library.

Fire: Friend or Foe 
By Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, photographs by William Muñoz
Age Range: 10+ with pictures useful for younger audiences too

This book was published in 1998, but its contents are still relevant today. This is a more in-depth book covering the same topics but with larger copy photos than National Geographic Kids: Wildfires. It visually describes the role of fire as a recycler of nutrients in America’s northern forests. This book focuses on fire in the wildlands rather than where those wildlands meet developed areas. This book is a great complement for “good vs bad” fire lessons.

Book Recommendation for Young Adults

Ancient Fire, Modern Fire: Understanding and Living with Our Friend & Foe
By: Einar Jensen
Age Range: 18+ (including Origins of Fire: Ancient Myths to share with all ages)

Ancient Fire, Modern Fire is a must read for wildland fire educators. It is not a book to hand to a child, but instead, will help you share an understanding of fire—as both a destructive and creative force—and as a tool which humans uniquely steward. This book has a wonderful collection of fire stories from all over the world, including sacred fire stories and many examples of how fire came into the hands of people. Electronic access to the educator’s guide and appendices also includes an online resource list, family and child fire risk surveys and additional fire education resources.

Compiled and written by a professional fire and life safety educator with an enthusiasm for wildland fire preparedness, I’m excited to have a signed copy of this book. Also, Einar is an affiliate member of FAC Net and a member of Fire Adapted Colorado!

This firefighter and first grader are equally enthusiastic about testing their matchstick forest with a slope in the fire bay during a multi-week elementary after school program on wildland fire. Credit: Rebecca Samulski

Do you have any go-to wildfire related books or education resources that are geared towards youth? Please share them in the comments below!

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