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I am about 3/4 of the way through reading the book, Wall of Flame, by Erich Krauss. This is one the best action fire books I have ever read. It is awesome. This comes from a firefighter who has fought the Masked Red Devil for 50 years and has been an incident commander on the largest fire in California history (2003 San Diego Cedar Fire).
I highly recommend this book to any firefighter and, particularly, to fire command officers. The book is so intense with detail that it creates many learning points for the fire officer. I will be recommending to all current and future fire command officers that they read the book, feel the action by the firefighters and think what they would do in the same circumstances.
Thank you for the learning that I am enjoying and benefitted from this read. As I frequently tell our firefighters, take care, be safe, have fun and live the FF dream.
John R. Hawkins, Fire Chief CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department
This book tells the story of one fire in Southern California. It's not really a battle to save Southern California, only one small part. But laying the sub-title aside, it's a good inside story on how they fight a big fire.
As I read the book I find myself with several related but almost random thoughts.
First, these kinds of fires were beautifully described in John McPhee's book 'The Control of Nature,' (recommended reading) along with other things that people do that contradicts what nature wants (think New Orleans). This book is much better in discussing the fire fighting efforts, but McPhee covers other things like the Mississippi river wants to change course but the Army Corp of Engineers is keeping it where it is.
Second, when people want to live in areas like this, they should at least bear in mind what might happen. Some houses were built of fireproof materials (wood shake roofs are especially bad), remove brush from being close to their house, and so on. These houses survived.
Third, the mountain right across the valley from my house hasn't burned for 20 to 30 years. The fuel from all those years is sitting there waiting for a good lightening strike or thrown away cigarette.
Fourth, one thing mentioned in the book was firefighter management not wanting to call the airborne water tankers to put water on the fire. Here some six or seven agencies (National Forest, State Forest, Bureau of Land Management, etc.) have gotten together to fund the water tankers. The costs are automatically split between the agencies regardless of where the fire is. I wonder if this is a result of the problems discussed in this book.
All in all, this is a 'cannot put down book' that anyone living in the fire prone West should read.
My uncle told me that I would love this book, and he was right. Although I don't fight fire, most of my family does. I grew up around firefighters as a child, but I didn't truly understand what they went through on a big fire until I read this book. It made me realize that when a big one hits, there is very little firefighters can do but steer the blaze around threatened communities. The problem is made worse by organizations such as Fish and Wildlife that doesn't let the fire departments conduct prescribed burns. The wild land fire departments have their hands tied with red tape, but when big fires happen like the grand prix , they get blaimed for not putting the blaze out in the first few hours. This book documents the battle (both with the fire and politics)that occured on the front lines of the biggest fire siege in California history back in 2003. With helicopter pilots, hotshot crews, dozer operators, municipal crews and Incident Commanders each getting their own chapters, you get to see all sides of the fire and the different opinions that are occuring out on the fire line. It shows how the lack of communication between the wild land guys and the municipal guys can cause disaster. An exceptional read!!!
Reviewed in the United States on December 24, 2006
I loved this book. If you want to know how it felt to be on the front lines of the Grand Prix or Old Fire during those days in October,2003. I worked in the San Bernardino Police Department mobile command post the first night of the Old Fire and remember watching the flames marching down Waterman Canyon towards us. Mr. Krauss captured the fire fighter's story quite well. He also touched on Critical Incident Stress which most authors leave out of their books. As part of the SBPD CISD Team I too was faced with dealing with Police Officers and Dispatchers who had lost their houses or were facing the loss of their homes. In fact, one of the dispatchers I worked with at the mobile command post watched the TV coverage of the Old Fire and saw his neighborhood go up in flames so I kicked him loose to make sure his house was okay. The next night, my neighborhood was evacuated but, after working through the early stages of the fire, I was too tired to evacuate. I would like to see more on the fight against the Old Fire in another book. After having lived and worked through it on the law enforcement side, it was good to read at least the small part that was included in this excellent book.
A good read. The similarities between the initial phases of a large wildland fire and "combat confusion" are apparent. Too many people doing their own thing, at least in the initial phase of the fire. A tribute to the firefighters of different agencies that no one was lost on this fire.
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2008
I enjoyed reading this book, I think it was well written and very informative and gave insight to the world of wildland firefighters and the job they do.I would recommend this book to anyone interested in fighting fire.