Gary Ferguson’s latest examines Land on Fire

Montana author's timely book explores "The New Reality of Wildfire in the West"

Books & Writers

After a scorching summer in Montana, and the epic fires now blistering California, Land on Fire – The New Reality of Wildfire in the West by Gary Ferguson offers a timely examination of the causes of these megafires. It turns out, we listened to Smokey Bear all too well (note that it’s not Smokey the Bear).

Gary Ferguson: Land On Fire
Gary Ferguson’s Land On Fire explores “The New Reality of Wild Fire in the West.”

Cycles of drought, insect infestation, all too effective fire suppression, and a lack of scientific knowledge have presented the world and especially the western U.S. with megafires. From an agent of healing and regeneration over the millennia, wildfires have grown to colossal destructive agents powerful enough to create their own weather.

Well-known Montana author Gary Ferguson delves deeply into the subject, and his book reveals the results of inquiry into such things as fire scars on slices from ancient trees. He offers a plethora of photographs, graphs, charts, available (but not intrusive) source notes and further reading suggestions.

I live in that highly susceptible Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), seven miles from the nearest volunteer fire station. Each “bad” wildfire season (like this one!), I’d pack up the good china and silver as well as family mementoes, artwork, etc. The crammed hope chests and laundry baskets would remain by the door most likely to facilitate quick and easy evacuation until the first snowfall.

So about 130 pages into the what, where and why – as well as the how provided by firefighters – I was ready to learn “What can I do about all this?”

Thankfully, I arrived at the chapter titled “Risk Reduction – the art and science of prevention and treatment.” In it, Ferguson provides a splendid yellow-colored page listing “Top Ten Ways to Protect Your Property from Wildfire.”

The author, a celebrated nature and science writer/lecturer, has been writing about the American West for decades.

I highly recommend his latest book for developers, city/county planners, and homeowners, like me, living in that Wildland Urban Interface.

– LK Willis