Fire: A Brief History

Pyne, Stephen J. | from Multimedia Library Collection:
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Pyne, Stephen J. Fire: A Brief History. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001. Environmental historian Pyne, a rightfully acknowledged leader among those who study the history of fire, draws on his extensive scholarly studies, his experiences as a fire fighter and fire planner for the National Park Service, and his fascination with the history of fire, to produce this philosophical ode to fire. Fire has been intertwined with earth’s history for more than 400 million years. Pyne describes ways in which fire, and then fire and humans, have shaped that history. He begins with a discussion of the creation of combustion, and the elements needed for it—fuel, oxygen, and heat. Pyne then discusses what he labels “fire regimes,” and speaks of “First Fire” as natural fire which humans did not influence. The behavior of First Fire changed over eons depending, in part, on the fuel available. Fire became an ecological factor whose patterns continue to influence evolution. First Fires can still exist today. Insights about “Second Fire,” or anthropocentric fire, which began when humanoids learned to use fire, form the central part of Pyne’s discussion. He describes varied ways in which humans used fire to shape their environment, as an aid in hunting, and as a colonizing force. Pyne also shows the central role of fire in shaping the earth’s and humanity’s history, as well as emphasizing the importance of European expansion in spreading Third Fire to other areas. (Text adapted from an H-Net review by Sylvia W. McGrath.)