Photo by Paul Stevko, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Several years ago, highly acclaimed author Stephen Pyne began a new series of short books on fire in key regions around the country, titled “To the Last Smoke.” His first book in the series, released last year, focuses on Florida. If you are asking yourself, “Why start with Florida?” you will know exactly why by the time you finish reading it. In a style unique to his writing, Pyne mixes history, fire management practices and programs, policies, personal stories of key individuals, and his own scintillating insights to distill a must-read for anyone interested in why Florida, and more generally why the Southeast, is at the forefront of wildland fire.
Pyne traveled from one end of the state to the other, interviewing fire and natural resource managers, collecting stories and documents, and piecing together the rich and intriguing story of the evolution of fire in Florida’s settlement, development, and current programs. From Eglin Air Force Base at the west end of Florida to Tall Timbers Research Station to Tallahassee to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Space Coast to the Everglades at the south end, and many points between, Pyne constructs a fascinating, in-depth evaluation of the evolution of today’s fire culture and management in the state, and its leadership in the national wildland fire community.
After living in Florida for 30 years, I thought I knew a little about the history and ecology of fire in the state. “Florida: A Fire Survey” took me far beyond my woefully inadequate understanding and instilled a much richer appreciation for the men and women across Florida who have helped weave the fire tapestry in the region. The book is available from the University of Arizona Press.
In addition to the book, you have the opportunity to hear Pyne as one of the Plenary Speakers at the 7th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress, in Orlando, the last week in November this year. In addition to posters and oral presentations, the Congress will feature a variety of workshops, training opportunities, field trips and fire circles (a.k.a. roundtable discussions). Mark your calendar now! There is still room for additional training workshops and fire circles if you have a topic to share with other fire managers in the region. Contact Alan Long for more information.
Alan Long is the administrative director for the Southern Fire Exchange. His book review was originally published in the Southern Fire Exchange’s June 2017 newsletter. The 2nd in Pyne’s series, on California, is also now available.
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