On the Front Lines with Sta­tion 8

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews -

Heather Hansen, Moun­taineers Books (MARCH) Hard­cover $24.95 (320pp), 978-1-68051-071-3

Wild­fire brings equal mea­sures of sci­ence and drama to the is­sue of com­bat­ing ever larger, more in­tense wild­land fires. Au­thor Heather Hansen spent eigh­teen months im­mersed in fire sci­ence and pol­icy, shad­ow­ing the elite fire­fight­ers of Sta­tion 8 near Boul­der, Colorado, through their daily train­ing reg­i­mens, pub­lic in­ter­ac­tion, and an all-out, week-long bat­tle against a moun­tain blaze that tested their in­ten­sively honed skills and en­durance.

Hansen ex­plores many as­pects of wild­fires, from the his­tory of the na­tional parks and de­vel­op­ment of for­est man­age­ment tech­niques to the most up-to-date com­puter mod­els of fire be­hav­ior and mi­crom­e­te­o­rol­ogy. Her lively re­portage com­bines in­ter­views, moun­tain hikes, vis­its to fire labs, and even her game at­tempts to keep up with hot­shot trainees and the Sta­tion 8 fire­fight­ers dur­ing their rig­or­ous work­outs and Ra­belaisian ba­cony feasts.

Her ex­pertly de­con­structed in­sights come to­gether in a taut fi­nal chap­ter that chron­i­cles the July 2016 Cold Springs fire. Hansen neatly bal­ances anal­y­sis of the pol­icy strug­gles over pre­scribed burns as they ran against res­i­dents’ de­sires to live in wild­land-ur­ban bor­ders sur­rounded by scenic trees and land­scap­ing.

As hu­man-driven cli­mate change ratch­ets up air tem­per­a­tures, droughts, and ex­treme weather events, the prospect of more fre­quent and ex­pen­sive megafires in the Amer­i­can West looms large. This thought­ful book an­swers some ques­tions about mit­i­gat­ing hu­man and en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects but also warns of po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic road­blocks. As Sta­tion 8 knows well, wild­fire is an in­evitable and nat­u­ral oc­cur­rence, and we must de­velop bet­ter fund­ing and poli­cies to deal with it.

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