Fire, like wildernesses and animals, has always been treated as something to be used, controlled and, when uncontrolled, suppressed and eliminated.
The history of America's relationship with its own vast wildernesses is complex, and, at times, perverse. Settlers typically cleared the land for farming, whilst the remaining forests were expected to earn their livings from recreation and hunting. Wolves (and indiginous humans) were eradicated, whilst bears (arguably more dangerous) became the epitomy of cuteness and survived. Forest fires, whose intensity can be measured in acres per second, were suppressed at all costs.
"Fire Season" tells the story of the battles to preserve a few of the remaining American wildernesses and the development of fire management, as science revealed the key role of naturally occurring fires in supporting the ecological diversity of the forests.
Author Philip Connors also sheds light on the lives of the fire lookouts who spend their summers in isolated towers in the middle of the forest and on the sometimes quirky individuals who volunteer for this work. Best of all, he gives a fascinating insight into the life and spirit of the Gila Wilderness which, thanks to the visionary work of 20th century ecologists, was the first place on earth to be given a legal right to simply exist.