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Über dieses Buch

In this book, the author visits scorched earth from Alaska to Maine, and introduces the scientists, firefighters, and resource managers making the case for a radically different approach to managing wildfire in the 21st century. Wildfires can no longer be treated as avoidable events because the risk and dangers are becoming too great and costly. The author weaves a heart-pumping narrative of science, economics, politics, and human determination and points to the ways that we, and the wilder inhabitants of the forests around our cities and towns, might yet flourish in an age of growing megafires.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Abstract
On May 3, 2016, a rapidly spreading wildfire around Alberta’s oil sands capital in Fort McMurray sent 88,000 people fleeing their homes, offices, hospitals, schools, and seniors’ residences. The people left so quickly that they were gone before the government declared a provincial state of emergency. Thick smoke turned day into night. Embers rained down on cars and trucks as people headed south to the city of Edmonton or north to the safety of oil sands camps and First Nations communities.
Edward Struzik

Chapter 1. The Beast Awakens

Abstract
On Sunday May 1, 2016, helicopter pilot Heather Pelley was on standby with a small firefighting crew at the Grayling Creek Fire Base, 22 miles (35 kilometers) south of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta. Shortly after 4 p.m. that day, Pelley was playing her guitar on the patio deck when the “dispatch alert” came in with notice that smoke was detected in the region. Once a call like that comes over the radio, or satellite phone, the pilot is expected to be in the air with a four-person helitack crew in 10 minutes.
Edward Struzik

Chapter 2. Inside the Mind of a Wildfire

Abstract
Eight days into the Fort McMurray wildfire, Bruce Mayer, the assistant deputy minister of the Alberta government’s Forestry Division, sent Cordy Tymstra and a small team of wildfire science specialists to size up The Beast. Their job was to figure out what was driving this inferno to burn as big and as uncontrollably as it did, before the rains came and washed away the evidence. While the ground was still warm in some places, the team took samples from the duff, measured soil moisture, identified the age and type of trees that burned, mapped out the topography, and considered how a massive infestation of spruce budworm in the region between 2007 and 2010 may have played a role in how the fire behaved. Tymstra was surprised by how quickly the vegetation was regenerating in some of the burned areas.
Edward Struzik

Chapter 3. A History of Fire Suppression

Abstract
On the day the Sunshine Ski Hill in Banff National Park opened early in November 2016, temperatures skyrocketed, making it feel more like early summer than late fall. As skiers gleefully headed for the hills for the first time, wildfire specialists Cliff White and Ian Pengelly took me to the top of Sulphur Mountain, an iconic peak that provides breathtaking views of the wilderness and townsite below, to show me how a Fort McMurray–like wildfire might burn one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
Edward Struzik

Chapter 4. Visions of the Pyrocene

Abstract
In the summer of 2016, I was standing along the banks of Vermillion River in the Canadian Rockies not far from the Burgess Shale, which is home to the fossilized impressions of weird and wonderful creatures that lived half a billion years ago. Paleontologist Charles Walcott discovered this site in 1909, but it was Harvard scientist Stephen J. Gould who made these fossils famous in his 1989 book Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. In that narrative on the quirks of evolution, Gould argued that as fit as these soft and hard-bodied animals might have been, fitness did not ensure their survival in a world that was rapidly cooling at the end of the so-called Cambrian explosion.
Edward Struzik

Chapter 5. Water on Fire

Abstract
If you are a wildfire fighter or scientist, you know the story of the Hayman fire that burned 138,000 acres (56,000 hectares) of forest in 2002. The fire started on June 2 and burned out of control in and around the counties of Douglas, Jefferson, Park, and Teller for the next six weeks. For a short time, a squall of white ash transformed the city of Denver into an early Christmas scene, albeit one that was filled with acrid smoke instead of fresh mountain air and snow. In a single day, the fire made a 19-mile run. It was an unusually severe fire for a low-elevation ponderosa-dominated forest landscape. Like the Horse River fire that burned fourteen years later in northern Alberta, this fire burned so hot that it created its own weather. Governor Bill Owens famously stated at the time that “it looks as if all of Colorado is burning.” It was not. But that, and rumors suggesting the fires were “bearing down” on the city of Denver, did stop many tourists from coming to the state.
Edward Struzik

Chapter 6. The Big Smoke

Abstract
In the fall of 1996, I traveled to the Chernobyl nuclear site in Ukraine with Dr. Clare Moisey, a Canadian doctor who was associated with a nonprofit organization called the Chernobyl’s Children Project. After the unnerving, unofficial visit to the Pripyat village site, which was a ghost town by then, Moisey decided to detour to the outlying areas of the so-called exclusion zone, where hundreds of mostly elderly people were beginning to illegally resettle. They had gotten tired of living in the drab, concrete apartment towers they were relocated to in Kiev following the disaster. “I would rather die of radiation poisoning than spend my last year rotting in that place,” said one widower we visited. We heard the same from others.
Edward Struzik

Chapter 7. Drought, Disease, Insects, and Wildfire

Abstract
In the late summer of 2008, Ted Hogg and Mike Michaelian, scientists with the Canadian Forest Service, drove to the Fort McMurray area to follow up on an aerial photo survey conducted the previous year by their colleagues. That 2007 survey had showed extensive browning of the white spruce forests in the region and a notable absence of leaves on the aspen trees. Initially, Hogg thought that the spruce browning might have been caused directly by drought, which has been drying out the region since the turn of this century. As Hogg soon discovered, however, it was the spruce budworm that did the damage to the spruce and forest tent caterpillars that severely defoliated the aspen.
Edward Struzik

Chapter 8. Fire on Ice

Abstract
On June 19, 2015, a slow-moving low-pressure system with spectacular thunderstorms that produced little rain began making its way through the Alaskan interior. When the storms finally petered out about a week later, 61,000 bolts of lightning—15,000 in one remarkably electric day—had been unleashed on a boreal forest in the state’s interior. No one had ever seen anything quite like it, not even in 2004, when 8,500 lightning strikes were recorded in one day.
Edward Struzik

Chapter 9. Agent of Change

Abstract
In the summer of 1955, a floatplane flew a small group of American climbers to a lake near the edge of a massive icefield straddling the Continental Divide along the Yukon/Northwest Territories border in northern Canada. When the group saw the cluster of jagged peaks and sheer rock walls they were searching for, they were stunned. Emerging from the edges of the Brintnell/Bologna icefield was a 9,000-foot palisade of ice-polished granite that bore an uncanny resemblance to the craggy spires of Yosemite.
Edward Struzik

Chapter 10. Resilience and Recovery

Abstract
In the spring of 1999, I was with biologist Gord Stenhouse when he captured a small grizzly bear on the east slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Jasper National Park. G-16, as this bear came to be known from that point on, was one of eighteen bears Stenhouse caught in the first year of a long-term study designed to determine the population and health of grizzly bears in a 2,066-square-mile (5,352-square-kilometer) area along the east boundary of Jasper and the Wilmore Wilderness.
Edward Struzik

Conclusion

Abstract
Chris Maisch grew up in Cleveland when the city was suffering from crushing economic and environmental problems. He was there in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River was so polluted with oil and hydrocarbons that it caught fire, inspiring editors at Time to put a picture of a similar but more serious river fire on its weekly cover. The Cuyahoga became a symbol of the environmental degradation that was occurring in lakes and rivers right across the continent. The environmental movement that followed led to establishment of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the Acid Rain Program in 1990, the Great Lakes Compact of 2008, and a number of other legislative and publicly funded initiatives in Canada and the United States. The ongoing efforts to protect North America’s watersheds have not been perfect and continue to be a work in progress, but they have helped avert a number of environmental and human disasters.
Edward Struzik

Backmatter

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