Drift Smoke: Loss and Renewal in a Land of Fire, by David J. Strohmaier
University of Nevada Press : 2005 : ISBN 0-87417-621-2

Drift Smoke is a beautifully hardbound, hand-sized book by wildland firefighter David Strohmaier. He has worked as a historian in Missoula, Mountana, and with the BLM and Forest Service fighting fires in the west for 15 seasons. He is also the author of The Seasons of Fire: Reflections on Fire in the West.

From Peter List, professor of philisophy emeritus, University of Oregon (and editor of Environmental Ethics and Forestry: A Reader):

“This is a unique book. I know of no other quite like it. It makes a significant contribution to the burgeoning literature about wildfire. It covers a subject only rarely touched on in any comprehensive way; that is, there are many books about some of the losses associated with wildfire (e.g., loss of life), but none that attempt to consider all the main kinds of loss in any detail or, aside from the author’s first book on fire, that argue so well that fire is an ambivalent phenomenon and cannot be understood as either solely an unmitigated evil or solely and ecological good.”

That’s kind of a mouthful, I agree. But just the quality of the book, the font and crisp pages, make me want to spend some time with it next to the controlled fire in my hearth (if, of course, I had a hearth). And this intro from the publisher helps, too:

Drift Smoke is a powerful and moving examination of wildfire by someone who has seen it in all its terror and beauty, who has lost colleagues and beloved terrain to its ferocity, and who has also seen the miracle of new life sprouting from the ashes. Living with wfire, Strohmaier says, is a matter of choices, of ‘seeing the connection between loss on a personal scale and loss on a landscape scale: in relationship with persons, and in relationship to and with the land.’ We must cultivate a longer perspective, he says, accepting that loss is a part of life and that ‘humility and empathy and care are not only core virtues between humans but are also essential virtues in our attitudes and actions toward the earth.'”

Terrain.org has also had some contributions on wildfire:

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One Response

  1. Ruth

    This looks like a wonderful book. Thanks for the review. One of the newest contributions to the literature on wildfires is Kurt Kamm’s One Foot in the Black. Although it’s a fictionalized account, it draws heavily on interviews with firefighters and other emergency personnel, as well as his own experiences as a victim of wildfire.

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