Get Wildfire Today on your Kindle

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You may have heard of the Kindle, a very cool electronic reading device sold by Amazon.  Using a cell phone signal, it can download books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and documents which can then be read on the device. Books can be downloaded in less than a minute–magazines and newspapers in even less time.

Wildfire Today is available on the Kindle beginning today–the first fire-related blog to be on the Kindle. You can subscribe to it through the device and have it automatically downloaded throughout the day as Wildfire Today is updated with new articles.

And, yes, you will have to pay for it.  The subscription is $1.99 a month for wireless delivery. But, you’re thinking, why should you pay for Wildfire Today when you can get it free on your computer?  Good point. I would have made it free on the Kindle, or at least would have set a very low fee, but those options were not available.  Amazon decided on the price. But if you are not near a computer, but have a Kindle and a cell phone signal, you can still keep up to date with what’s happening in the world of wildland fire.

It uses the Sprint cell phone network to download material. That worried me at first, since I don’t have dedicated Sprint service here in the boonies of South Dakota, but it works fine here anyway. Obviously Sprint has agreements, roaming I guess, with other cell phone carriers.  And it does not cost anything to download stuff, regardless of which carrier you are using.

Books cost around $9.99 each, and magazines and newspapers are around $0.49 to $1.50 each.  It is fascinating to be able to grab, within seconds, today’s copy of the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, or dozens of other newspapers.

I took a Kindle on two trips recently, including an extended vacation at a beach house in southern Mexico (BEFORE the swine flu scare, thankfully!).  Before the Kindle, I would have loaded my suitcase with a bunch of heavy books and magazines, but instead I put electronic copies of them on the Kindle.

The device weighs 10 ounces and is only 1/3 of an inch thick.  It’s very easy to use and there is room to store 1,500 books.

A couple of months ago, that sells the Kindle, came out with a redesigned model, the Kindle 2, which has some ergonomic enhancements and a 25% longer batter life than the original model. And just a couple of days ago they announced a new, larger version, the Kindle DX, which will be available this summer and has a 9.7″ screen, compared to the 6″ screen on the Kindle 2. I find the 6″ screen to be perfectly adequate, and the device can be easily packed and transported.

The devices are not particularly cheap, with the 6″ screen version selling for $359. The new 9″ one will be $489.

The battery life is great, lasting for several days before needing to be recharged, which can be done with a wall charger or a USB cable from a computer.  It uses a new technology, “e-ink”, that consumes no power while the image is being displayed on the screen.

Reading a book on the Kindle is a pleasant experience.  To turn a page, press a button near your thumb and in about a second or less there it is.  The screen has excellent contrast and is easy to read without any strain. It does not have color capability–that would have eaten up the battery much more quickly.

Reading a newspaper is not as enjoyable as browsing through a paper version. A table of contents is available–you can browse by sections and see the names of articles.  Then you click on an article to see and read it. Or, you can just click from one article to the next one, eventually browsing through the whole newspaper.  It is still easy to read the newspaper, but browsing electronically is a different experience than holding a paper version in your hand and glancing at the headlines.

You can also transfer documents, such as Microsoft Word documents, to the Kindle.  I put copies of my airline itinerary and passport on it.  I figured if I lost my passport, having an image of it on my Kindle would make getting a replacement a little easier.

Book: "Along the Black"

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Becky Blankenship, after a couple of years on the Logan Hot Shots, collaborated with her sister Wendy to write a book of photographs and poetry about wildland fire. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Salt Lake Tribune about the book:


Few professions beside firefighting offer lower pay in return for the highest risk of physical harm, but that never put a damper on Becky Blankenship’s enthusiasm. After working for two years on the U.S. Forest Service’s trail crew from afar, she jumped at the chance of getting her “red card” training certificate for firefighting.

Two “blow-ups” — sudden flare-ups of forest land — during a 2001 firefight in the Uinta Mountains might have scared off any other first-timer.

“I loved it,” Blankenship said.

So much so, in fact, that she began chronicling her experiences through photography.

The soot in your nostrils, bathing in creeks, endless diet of M&Ms and meals-ready-to-eat faded compared to the camaraderie. Walk into a restaurant of cheering patrons after long days of putting out a forest fire and even the multitude of aches in your body seems to melt.

Wendy Blankenship, Becky’s older sister and an MFA-educated poet, noticed that her sister’s life on the “hotshot” crew was not just a lifestyle, but often a separate language.

Sitting in the back seat as their mother drove around their Wellsville home near Logan, Wendy was struck by words Becky used. A “cat-face tree” was one burnt out, or burning, near the trunk. A “widow maker” was a burnt tree so precariously fragile the fall of a branch might kill. Most poetic of all was “along the black,” the burn-out safety zone fire fighters retreated into when things “got gunny” near a burning forest.

“I just saw it as another day of work. Wendy saw it as poetry,” Becky said.

What both sisters soon realized was that their complementary views– Becky’s photography and Wendy’s poetry — would make for a bracing book. The result, Along The Black , is a 46-page homage to the grit and courage of one of the world’s most dangerous professional callings.

Comic book salutes military firefighters

Marvel Comics has created a number of comic books in tribute to our military. Their latest, released free to the military in July, features military personnel, several super heros, MAFFS air tankers, the Ikhana unmanned aerial vehicle (for mapping fires), and a fire which is threatening San Diego.

Above is one page out of the book. The author of the comic book, Stuart Moore, blogged about his creation HERE.

Incident logbooks

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I recently learned about a new company, InciDocs Publications, that is producing logbooks for Incident Command System positions. They are all 5.5″ x 8.5″ and fit into the cargo pocket of your Nomex pants.

All versions have sections for travel information, in-briefing notes, contacts, web sites, ICS-214 Unit Logs, and a fillable calendar. They have a heavy-duty front and back cover and holders for business cards and receipts.

Logbooks are then customized to distinct ICS positions by inserting a 14-day daily log section that collects information specific to that job function. They can even be further customized by printing the graphic of your agency or incident management team on the cover. They have dozens of logos on file already.

From the web site:

Carrie Dennett, owner of InciDocs Publications, spent 13 years in fire and resource management for the National Park Service. She was the Fire Management Officer for two national parks for the last 6 years and a Fire Ecologist for the previous 7 years at three national parks in Arizona. Though retired from the National Park Service, Carrie still holds a position on a federal type 1 incident management team as a Situation Unit Leader and has responded to many wildland fires and hurricanes with type 1 and 2 teams in the last 7 years.

Thanks, Dean, for the tip.

John Maclean's forward for Stephen Pyne's book

John Maclean has written three books about wildland fire: “Fire on the Mountain”, “Fire and Ashes”, and “The Thirtymile Fire”. Recently he wrote a foreword to Stephen J. Pyne’s “Year of the Fires: The Story of the Great Fires of 1910”, first published in 2001, which is being reissued in 2008 by Mountain Press in Missoula.

We have permission from John and Mountain Press to reprint the foreword here. In the excerpt below, John writes about the fires of 1910 and the cabin at Seely Lake, Montana that has been in his family for generations. The entire foreword is worth a read.

“This summer a palpable cloak of heat and expectation hung over the landscape as though the predictable and cherished past had been replaced by an unfamiliar monster. Make no mistake, northwestern Montana is fire country and has been for centuries. The marks of fire, discovered in tree rings when one of the giant larch trees finally thunders to the ground, show that for centuries fire occurred along the shores of Seeley Lake every quarter century or so – until our forebears stopped the cycle in the wake of the Great Fires of 1910, the subject of Stephen Pyne’s Year of the Fires. When I was growing up, the Forest Service, the agency responsible for the federal land around the cabin, did not allow us to cut a tree and even discouraged clearing brush. The offset was the promise that the Forest Service would contain any fire that threatened the area under the full suppression policy that was adopted in response to the 1910 calamity.

That full suppression policy now has been formally abandoned – along with the rule forbidding the cutting of trees around Seeley Lake. In recent years, the Forest Service itself undertook a forest thinning and light burning project in the area. The treated zones provoked complaints in the first year or two because they looked rough, but they have become a glorious sight since then. Densely packed stands of “dog hair” lodgepole pine have been opened up, disclosing centuries-old trees. The big trees, whose growth was stunted in recent decades because they were deprived of moisture and light, now can take their place as giants and future giants. Fuzzy new trees and low brush carpet the forest floor. Wildlife can move freely. Humans can hike or snowmobile through the stands without battling brush. The forest is not fire proof, but a low-intensity fire would likely burn through here without catastrophic damage. Regular clearing by fire is what allowed the giants to grow big in the first place.

During the summer, I mowed down the tall grass near the cabin, felled a couple of dead lodgepole pines, and cleared a year’s accumulation of duff from near the cabin. Then I left the place to its rendezvous with fire – which was not long in coming.”

Maclean’s and Pyne’s books can be found at the International Association of Wildland Fire Books page.