In May 2016, the city of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, burned to the ground, forcing 88,000 people to flee their homes. It was the largest evacuation ever of a city in the face of a forest fire, raising the curtain on a new age of increasingly destructive wildfires. This book is an account of one of North America's most devastating forest fires-and a stark exploration of our dawning era of climate catastrophes.
It is a gripping yarn, though the storytelling is at times slowed by Vaillant’s wanderings. There’s a painstaking history of the use of bitumen over the millenniums ... Fire Weather lacks many memorable human characters. But Vaillant fills that void with an unforgettable protagonist: fire itself.
'It has been suggested that one reason so many of us are attracted to disaster movies … is because they offer ways to visualize, and perhaps prepare for, such events ourselves,' writes journalist John Vaillant in Fire Weather: A True Story From a Hotter World. His book appeals for much the same reason — but the cataclysms for which it prepares us are not fictions ... It is impossible to keep reading, impossible to stop ... Fire Weather” mounts a systematic investigation into all the factors that conspired to wreak such havoc on Fort McMurray. A book about an isolated disaster thereby unfurls into a book about boreal forest ecosystems, the chemistry of combustion, the flammability of modern furniture, the history of environmental exploitation in Alberta, the climactic conditions that are making forest fires increasingly dangerous and ubiquitous, and much more — at times, too much more ... Fire Weather fails when it trades in familiar warnings, which are easily relegated to the dustbin of the mind. It succeeds when it concretizes the unimaginable in terms that seize readers by the throat.