Steven Pyne: Our approach to wildfires is all wrong

USFS engine crew on the White Draw Fire
USFS engine crew on the White Draw Fire
USFS engine crew on the White Draw Fire, July 29, 2012. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Steven Pyne, the author of many books about wildland fire, has written an amazing op/ed piece for the Washington Post titled “From Yosemite to Colorado, our approach to wildfires is all wrong”.

It is the most interesting article I have read in a long time, due in part, of course, to the wisdom of his ideas about how to coexist with the wildfire problems facing us. But what makes it a joy to read is his extraordinary gift as a wordsmith. About every third sentence I encountered a word, phrase, or a way of looking at an issue that was surprising, in a good way — arrangements of words that have rarely if ever been used in the context of wildland fire management.

You must read it, but here are some examples:

  • “misdiagnosed the problem”
  • “retrofitting houses”
  • “irrationally exuberant sprawl”
  • “fire repression”
  • “translating ideas into programs”
  • “pluralism of fire programs”
  • “ill-sited McMansions”
  • “climate change may flip the script”
  • “fire equivalent of a flood plain”
  • “emergency interventions rather than systemic reforms”

You are welcome.


Thanks go out to Bruce

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Steven Pyne: Our approach to wildfires is all wrong”

  1. Oh yes, so true. We’ve learned so much about the necessity of fire in the ecosystem, but it’s so hard to back off of 100 years of total fire suppression.

    When I hike the mountains of Southern Arizona, I can’t help but see a tinderbox ready to explode. The Santa Catalinas have certainly had their share of horrendous fires the past 8 years, and the Santa Rita Mountains were devastated by the 2005 Florida Fire. Next in line are the Pinalenos, which are overgrown and ripe for a catastrophe. Too bad the Forest Service is so broke it can’t follow through on it’s prescribed burns so desperately needed, at least that is my understanding.


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