Read On the Burning Edge: A Fateful Fire and the Men Who Fought It by Kyle Dickman Online


NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MEN’S JOURNAL • In the tradition of Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm and Robert Kurson’s Shadow Divers comes a true and heartbreaking tale of courage, difficult decisions, and ultimate sacrifice. On the Burning Edge, by award-winning journalist and former wildland firefighter Kyle Dickman, is the definitive account of the YarnNAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MEN’S JOURNAL • In the tradition of Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm and Robert Kurson’s Shadow Divers comes a true and heartbreaking tale of courage, difficult decisions, and ultimate sacrifice. On the Burning Edge, by award-winning journalist and former wildland firefighter Kyle Dickman, is the definitive account of the Yarnell Hill Fire.  On June 28, 2013, a single bolt of lightning sparked an inferno that devoured more than eight thousand acres in northern Arizona. Twenty elite firefighters—the Granite Mountain Hotshots—walked together into the blaze, tools in their hands and emergency fire shelters on their hips. Only one of them walked out.   Dickman brings to the story a professional firefighter’s understanding of how wildfires ignite, how they spread, and how they are fought. He understands hotshots and their culture: the pain and glory of a rough and vital job, the brotherly bonds born of dangerous work. Drawing on dozens of interviews with officials, families of the fallen, and the lone survivor, he describes in vivid detail what it’s like to stand inside a raging fire—and shows how the increased population and decreased water supply of the American West guarantee that many more young men will step into harm’s way in the coming years.Praise for On the Burning Edge  “What makes this book a tear-jerking classic is the seamless manner in which Dickman weaves a century of fire-management history into the fully realized stories of the men’s lives—the sweat, the adrenaline, the orange glow of fire within their aluminum shelters, and the chewing gum that hotshot Scott Norris left in the shower before telling his girlfriend, Heather, ‘I’ll take care of it later. I promise.’”—Outside   “Dickman offers a riveting account of a dangerous occupation and acts of nature most violent—and those who face both down.”—Library Journal...

Title : On the Burning Edge: A Fateful Fire and the Men Who Fought It
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780553392128
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

On the Burning Edge: A Fateful Fire and the Men Who Fought It Reviews

  • Matt
    2019-03-24 07:09

    It’s that time of year, and appreciable portions of the west are ablaze. With fire season upon us, it seemed an appropriate time to revisit one of the worst wildland fire disasters in American history. On June 28, 2013, in northern Arizona, lightning ignited a devastating wildfire that burned more than 8,000 acres. Men and equipment moved in to do battle. Residents of a nearby town prepared to evacuate. The fire feasted on dry fuel in the drought-ridden area. The area hadn’t burned for 45 years, and it was highly flammable. The wind, as always, played its tricks. Two days later, 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots – a team of wildland firefighters stationed out of Prescott, Arizona – were overrun by the fire while attempting to get to a safe zone. The hotshots deployed their fire shelters, but the aluminum, silica, and fiberglass devices were no match for the intense, 2,000 degree heat. All of them perished. (Like the servant of Job, one member of the team who had been acting as a lookout survived). This is more than a story of young men dying in fire. It is a mystery. Shortly before their deaths, the Granite Mountain Hotshots had been standing “in the black”. That is, they were at a place that had already burned. They were safe there. The spot could not burn again. If they simply remained where they stood while the fire flared and jumped and advanced at tremendous speed, they would be with us still. If they made any other decisions than the one that got made, they would still be with us. If they made no decision at all... Yet they left the black. The order to leave, likely made by superintendent Eric Marsh, is the animating feature of the Yarnell Fire disaster. It is a deadly riddle that calls out to be solved, or at least puzzled over. Probably the chief failure of Kyle Dickman’s On the Burning Edge is that it does not realize this. Marsh’s decision is only fleetingly scrutinized in this unfocused and frustrating book. At 265 pages of text, On the Burning Edge is pretty short. Almost two-thirds of its length is devoted to the lead-up to the fire. Dickman pays special attention to the formation of the Granite Mountain crew under Marsh. He takes you through the training and certification required of a hotshot crew. Hotshots – not to be confused with smokejumpers, who can parachute into action – are often referred to as “elite” units. However, as Dickman points out, qualifications are pretty basic, and abilities vary from crew to crew. Granite Mountain comes across as a physically fit and able group, with a controversial leader who one person described as a “bad-decisions, good-outcome guy”. With a sometimes plodding thoroughness, Dickman provides accounts of the various fires that Granite Mountain fought in the 2013 season. In presenting the Granite Mountain team, Dickman chooses to hone in on only a few individuals. These chosen subjects get the lion’s share of the space, to the detriment of all the rest. One of the men Dickman follows isn’t even at the fateful Yarnell Fire; despite this, we get several in-depth scenes with him and his family. I am loathe to use the word “filler” in describing any book’s contents. It’s an imprecise term often overused by readers with short attention spans. In this case, I think it’s warranted. There is a lot of unnecessary padding at the start, and far too little actual substance at the end. I am not ignorant of the journalistic process. I understand that in order to write something like this, you need sources. An author is naturally going to write more about the people who gave him or her access. Unfortunately, the result is an unbalanced narrative. The girlfriends of some of the hotshots (who I assume were willing to speak with Dickman) are given far more depth than most of the crew. In fact, some of the guys who died with Granite Mountain are only introduced at the fatal fire. This just doesn’t make any sense, narrative or otherwise. Even the men Dickman writes about eludes us. He mistakes factoids with characterizations. We learn that one guy liked the movie Tommy Boy and another liked guns; what we don’t learn is what that contributes to who these men were. Scattered throughout Granite Mountain’s story are interesting nuggets about the history of wildland firefighting. Gifford Pinchot and the Big Burn. Natural fire cycles verses fire suppression. This is important context, but Dickman never molds it into a position. There is no discussion about the wildland-urban interface, and how the encroachment of developers requires a massive subsidy that is sometimes paid in lives. In the movie Backdraft, an arson investigator played by Robert De Niro explains to one of the Baldwin brothers that fire has a mind of its own. That’s not true. Fire is constrained by its own physics. Experienced wildland firefighters, aided by up-to-the-minute weather reports, can look at a fire and see the dangers before they unfold. How a fire runs faster uphill than down. How a fire will react to different types of fuel. How a shift in the wind can block an escape route. There is an inherent risk to fighting fires because fire is involved, and fire burns. But in terms of probability, firefighting is actually safer than more mundane occupations, such as garbage collection. This is due to our understanding of fire science. When firefighters die in wildland blazes, it is typically due to human error. We see this time and again in lethal fires, whether it’s Mann Gulch in 1949 (covered by Norman Maclean in Young Men and Fire) or the South Canyon Fire of 1994 (covered by Norman Maclean’s son John, in Fire on the Mountain). Dickman recognizes this when he discusses the 1990 Dude Fire that killed six firefighters in Walk Moore Canyon. (The firefighters, apropos of nothing, were part of a convict crew). Humans are fallible, even those who are well trained. Under the duress of a seething, mushrooming inferno that is powerful enough to create its own weather system, poor decisions get made.Despite this recognition, Dickman does not engage in any rigorous analysis of the fire scene. I’m not sure where this hesitation comes from. I sort of assume he refrained from any critique or judgment out of deference to the fallen. If so, he probably shouldn’t have undertaken this project to begin with. I expected more from Dickman, who is a wildland firefighter himself. It surprises me that there isn’t a section in the book where he puts on a rucksack and goes to Yarnell to observe things with his own eyes. To walk in the footsteps of the doomed to see what they saw. To know the terrain. To understand their exertions as they tried to escape. This might have given him a crucial insight. A professional wildland firefighter tends to view ground with different eyes than you or me. A firefighter looks at a ridge and is unconsciously estimating how fast a fire might run along its spine. I look at the same ridge and get distracted by two bunnies humping. There is a lot of material out there on Yarnell. There have been a couple of official investigations and at least one prominent independent one. There are also some good magazine articles about the disaster. Heck, Dickman wrote one of them for Outside magazine. (I recommend No Exit by Sean Flynn, written for Esquire). In terms of what else is out there on the topic, On the Burning Edge falls short. In the wake of disaster, we are always trying to draw lessons. Most of the time, such attempts are futile. Not so with fires. The U.S. Forest Service, like the military, conducts staff rides at fatal fires in order to determine when, where, and how decision-making breaks down. This knowledge can be integrated into training and procedures so that the same mistakes don’t get repeated. The question of why Marsh left the black is imperative to an understanding of the Yarnell Fire. Dickman treats it as an afterthought.

  • Lori L (She Treads Softly)
    2019-03-01 04:15

    On the Burning Edge by Kyle Dickman is a highly recommended, in depth look at the 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots of Prescott, AZ., and the Yarnell, AZ., wildfire that claimed 19 of their lives.Dickman, a former hotshot, spent five years fighting wildfires in California. His insider's knowledge and viewpoint give us information about the group and how they train and interact. While providing the information on a brief history of wildfire firefighting teams, and how a hotshot team trains and works fighting wildfires, he focuses mainly on the Granite Mountain Hotshots. He then gives us a well-researched inside glimpse at each of the members of the team. Dickman carefully covers each member of the crew and even includes their last text messages sent to loved ones.The wildfire in Yarnell was sparked by a lightning bolt and quickly turned into an inferno that eventually devoured more than eight thousand acres in northern Arizona. Anyone who has ever seen a wildfire take off will understand the terror and unpredictability of a wildfire. Those of us who have done so, have also watched and applauded the dedicated crews coming in to fight those fires. While the actual firefighting portion of the book may seem scant, On the Burning Edge is a memorable and heartbreaking account of the men who fought the fire.I remember vividly when living in the west seeing a lightning strike hit a nearby mountain and then almost immediately seeing smoke arise from the mountain. It is a horrifying feeling to watch a fire take off and know your family could be in the path of a wildfire. Furthermore, these fires seemed to be a yearly occurrence. So many people across the USA depend on the hotshots and crews of dedicated firefighters from across the West to come in and fight the fires. (A shout out to those flying helicopters and dumping flame retardant on the fires too.)Dickman does a good job presenting the information and telling the story of the tragic event. It is also a story of warning and caution. With the increased population and well publicized decrease in the water supply in the West, there are certainly going to be an increase of fires that threaten populated areas and more young men will be in harm’s way fighting the fires.Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.

  • Lori
    2019-02-26 04:16

    I won this as a goodreads first reads giveaway. I have an ARC. due to the instructions on my ARC I cannot write a review until it is released to the public. So my review of this book will come at that time.I read this book last month but could not write a review until it was officially out in the stores. Two years ago on June 13th the area of Yarnell Arizona made national news. An enormous fire engulfed the area. It all started with a lightening bolt. Within a couple days 19 firemen were dead. They were known as the "hotshots" They specialized in forest fires. of the 20 hotshots only one survived. This book describes what happened during this tragic time. There are interviews with witnesses. Many of the hotshot's lives are described. Many of these men were just starting families that tragically lost their husbands, daddies. This is a hard book to read since it talks of real life men who lost their lives. Part of the book also talks of other fires throughout history that cost many lives. So part of the book is about the 19 firemen who lost their lives, what they did to try and survive. the interviews of witnesses. It can be a bit of dry reading in parts. but gives a lot of information about this tragic event that happened in June of 2013.

  • Candace
    2019-03-06 09:00

    This was a well written book. I wish he would have elaborated on all of the 19 firefighters and their personalities, as it seemed he just focused on a few. Also, I would have liked pictures of all of the firefighters.

  • Barbara
    2019-03-18 06:19

    Little slow in spots early on but does justice to Granite Mountain.

  • Jill Crosby
    2019-02-27 09:17

    If you can't feel the heat & smell the smoke while reading this story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who fell fleeing the flames of the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013, you're not trying.Still--I'm hoping John McLean turns his formidable writing chops loose on this tragedy, and offers more analysis and explanation as to WHY Yarnell Mountain happened, and how future hotshot teams can avoid a similar fate.

  • Doug Bivens
    2019-03-08 10:01

    very informative. I watched the new movie Only The Brave(which is based on this disaster) and was intrigued so decided to pick up this book. There is some science etc but its in language I got and the history of wildfire management as well as historic fires that shaped it was very interesting. My hats off to these heroes and all who fight the fires in this nation

  • Angela Cloud
    2019-03-10 06:11

    I originally read the article Dickman wrote in Outside and was fascinated. He tries very hard to replicate the writing style of Krakauer, and probably did a good job if I hadn't just finished Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean right before. Maclean's writing left something to be desired with Dickman's prose.

  • T. Alan Spencer
    2019-02-27 04:18

    A lot of information about wildfires I never knew.Living in the Southwest, I learned more about the fires around me over the past twenty years then I ever learned from the news. Also gained a lot of information about the fire tactics on how they fight a fire. Awesome book. I'm sure I will read it again.

  • Brian
    2019-02-28 05:15

    A follow up to a book I read earlier this year. A good overview of this tragedy and the people involved.

  • Casey Schirado
    2019-03-04 11:14

    I loved this book. It is well researched, and I feel like it did this story and these boys justice. It reads like fiction, and I couldn't put it down.

  • Gabbieb
    2019-02-28 06:02

    Engaging and well-written, though tragic. Taught me a lot about wildfires and how they're fought, which is exactly what I was looking for.

  • Adrian
    2019-02-27 11:04

    My rating: 4 starsAudiobook narrator Will Damron rating: 2.5 starsI feel like this book had a similar feel to a Jon Krakauer book. You ultimately know what happens in this ‘story’ but the author leads you through some interesting history and backstory that ultimately leads up to the main story. I liked this approach and thought that it made for an interesting book.I remember this wildfire event happening (I would imagine that most Americans would since it made national and international news) but I am glad I read this since I feel that I understand it much better. I did not realize how serious this disaster was and how truly sad it all was as well. I sure hope we (we as in the USA) don’t experience another disaster like this one.I know some folks have complaints about the validity of the stats that were spit out from the author. Since I listened to the audiobook, I did not have a chance to ‘see’ any footnotes to back up the claims of the numbers and such. My one complaint was how difficult it was to keep up with all the ‘characters’ of this story. After a while it became clearer but I think the author could have done a much better job of defining who is who throughout the book.The narration was just fine – especially for a non-fiction/memoir type of book. But the narrator did not help when it came to ‘re-enacting’ any dialog between the people in the story. He just made it more confusing.

  • Chris Eells
    2019-03-10 11:10

    I won On the Burning Edge as an uncorrected proof with the agreement that I write an unbiased review.Dickman, who spent five years as a hotshot himself, spends the first half of the book going through some of the history of wildfires in the US, explaining how certain weather patterns develop and effect fires, and some brief background into the lives of the 20 hotshots involved in the Yarnell Hill Fire. The last half of the book describes the events that occurred during, and in the immediate aftermath, of the fire. Perhaps it was because I received an early edition without maps or photos and such, but I found it difficult to follow some of the narrative. Perhaps that was the author's intent. To give the reader as much of a first person perspective as was possible and thereby show how much confusion existed during this fire event. For it is obvious that despite all the intense training and how professional these firefighters were, there was a breakdown in communication. There are only 19 people that may have known why the Granite Mountain Hotshots "left the Black", and they all passed in that horrible fire. Some will argue ego, others will blame the weather turning, others still will argue that Granite Mountain was still to be considered a novice hotshot crew. Any, or all of these may be true, but it doesn't negate the courage and dedication each of these men showed, and that every wildfire firefighter shows each time they commit themselves to combating a fire.

  • JP Mac
    2019-03-25 09:57

    Life hangs by a sudden wind shift. For 19 men fighting the Yarnell Hill fire, that shift was fatal. An elite firefighting crew, the Granite Mountain Hotshots battled a wildfire outside Prescott, Arizona on June 30, 2013. As a thunderstorm brought in heavy winds that changed the fire's direction, the men left a safe spot in order to move to another position. Caught by a wall of flame, they were 'burned over,' leaving behind grieving relatives and many questions.Author Dickman, a former wilderness firefighter, might have taken time to map out the movements of the doomed crew. It was difficult to follow his narration. Also, he writes out the men's thoughts, particularly during the last moments of life, adding an unnecessary fictional element to a story that needs no extra dramatization. Dickman does a good job of describing hotshot culture as well as the last few months of mostly young men engaged in a difficult occupation. The pacing is fast and builds toward a tragedy that, despite two investigations and lawsuits, still remains a mystery.

  • Tiffany
    2019-03-09 07:19

    The story of the Yarnell Fire and the crew of hotshots (19 of the 20/1 survived) from Prescott Valley, Az that died trying to fight it. Well researched, very informative and well written. I guess I'm a bit intrigued (and terrified) when it comes to forest fires. I read an amazing book, The Big Burn, a few years ago that gave me an understanding of the natural life cycle of forests and their need to burn and how in hindering that cycle we are creating massive, devastating fires that are only going to get worse in the years to come. This book, On the Burning Edge, gives an insider look at what it is to be a hotshot firefighter and how uncontrollable a forest fire truly is. Also found it amazing that this particular crew began a defensible space program- going out into the areas around Prescott Valley and cutting fire breaks and clearing mentioned that other areas are starting to follow suit. Very heartbreaking to read as it is the largest loss of firefighters at once since 9/11.

  • Marly
    2019-03-23 09:05

    Growing up in the Southwest, wild fires are pretty much the norm. When you smell smoke, you wonder where the fire is taking place. I often see fire crews roaming the interstate on our summer travels. Most often at gas stations, refueling on fuel on food. Also, I enjoy my subscription to Outside Magazine. The author and topic influenced my purchase of this book. If you have read my other reviews, before I read a book I check out my local library and their digital reserves. This book was not available as a hard copy or digital reserve. The individual chapter are placed in a choppy arrangement. I was often confused on the specific fire being fought, but used my smart phone to clarify the time period. Just as I would use my smart phone to look up where a city mentioned in a book is located. The author described as many firefighters as he could. 19 of the 20 crew members perished and I felt that he wrote about as many as he could. The firefighters got jumbled in the book and key personalities emerged. I knew the ending and still got teary eyed at description of the burn over.

  • Kari
    2019-02-23 07:00

    **I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.**This nonfiction account of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who were killed two years ago in the Yarnell Fire in Arizona is heartbreaking. Author Kyle Dickman is a masterful writer, and his writing is both vivid and detailed. The book not only focuses on the events leading up to the deadly date of June 28, 2013, but also covers the Granite Mountain Hotshots' history. A former firefighter himself, Dickman covers the science of fires and firefighting, and he explains why our wildfires have become so much deadlier.Although the subjects are broad, "On the Burning Edge" never loses its focus: the Granite Mountain crew. He touches on the men's personalities, their loves, their struggles, their camaraderie. I remember the grief I felt in 2013 upon learning about the deaths of these 19 firefighters, and this book brought new pain -- as well as a renewed respect for firefighters, who are heroes all.A masterful book. Recommended.

  • Candace Seymour
    2019-03-21 05:15

    This book was well-researched and answered many of the nagging questions I had about how these 19 hotshots perished in the Yarnell Hill wildfire of 2013. It also covers the history of wildfire suppression in the U.S., which I found to be interesting, if not somewhat confounding. There were many personal accounts woven into the storytelling, which made you feel as though you were right there amongst these men during their training, firefights, and home life. In my estimation, it required great skill to give such an intimate account, since the majority of the witnesses to these events are no longer with us. As a fiction reader who rarely crosses over into non-fiction, I can say that I not only enjoyed this book (as much as one can enjoy such a tragic story), but I also learned a good deal about how we fight wildfires.

  • Delta
    2019-03-06 10:00

    I don't generally like natural disaster books or films, especially when they are based on real events. However, the care and thought that was put into this book really did justice to the memory of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The story is heartbreaking and the personal touches (such as the texts and phone conversations) really bring the firefighters to life in the minds of people that only knew them from the news. The history Dickman included provided a much needed background for people like me that have no knowledge of firefighting. A superb book.**I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.**

  • Jacob Rhoades
    2019-02-22 09:05

    It's a story that starts with a big question: why would a team of highly trained firefighters leave the safety of a burnout to put themselves directly in harms way? The book never answers that question. However, it does go to lengths to give you insight and details into the profession, history, and men who fight fires, enough to allow you to try and draw your own conclusions. If there's any failing of the book, its just that: with so much emotion and politics tied into the business of fighting wildfires, there are any number of conclusions that the reader can draw. Ultimately though, this book is about the 19 men who died, and damn if you aren't crying by the end of it all.

  • Daniel
    2019-03-17 10:21

    I'm currently working on the trail that leads up to where the 19 hotshots died. This book gave great insight into the individual lives of the firefighters, as well a great background and contextual information regarding fires and how they are fought.Working in the same terrain these men died in is truly humbling. Although I am not from Yarnell or Arizona, I thank these men for the service they were doing. They will be remembered, and the memorial park being dedicated to them will see to that as well.

  • Todd Haines
    2019-03-04 04:04

    I thought I'd reviewed this already. This is a FIVE STAR work. No Doubt. Kyle Dickman does an extremely good job with this subject given the sensitive subject matter. Very well done and accurate. I will say I was interviewed for a portion of this book and was wondering how he would portray the subject. He managed to do it accurately without it being accusatory in any way. The way a subject like this should be handled. I'm impressed how it was written.

  • Amy Curtiss
    2019-03-04 04:56

    Great non fiction, the author honors the men he writes about while telling the story of how and why wildfires are fought. I learned more about the history of firefighting in the dry southwest than I ever thought I would, but the writing is so good that I didn't feel like I was being taught. This book is one of the reasons I so enjoy reading non fiction, great research into an area I didn't even know I wanted to know about.

  • Kate Rau
    2019-03-10 06:55

    Painstakingly researched, this book was a bit more focused on weather/fire-behavior than it needed to be; I would have preferred more character development and photos of each man so that the reader connected more to the participants, as well as better maps and diagrams to assist in visualizing the events. Overall a well done and informative look into the danger these men and women face while fighting to protect our natural resources.

  • Laura
    2019-03-01 02:58

    A moving and detailed account of the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona, which in 2013 claimed the lives of 19 firefighters. There are no definitive answers in this book, just details and insights from those who knew and worked with the 19 men and from the author, Kyle Dickman, who spent five years as a hotshot in California.

  • Liz
    2019-02-25 03:53

    On the Burning Edge is a good book. It's a little haunting to read dead men's thoughts, but K. Dickman does his research which allows us to hear and feel potentially what they're thinking. My heart goes out to the families, and my hope is that the fire fighting culture and management change for the better.

  • Steve Callahan
    2019-03-08 11:10

    Remembering the 19 firefighters who died doing their jobs three years ago this week in a horrible tragedy. Sad, not all heroes protect us with a gun. Lets hope the present firefighters have learned more about fighting fires safely in this upcoming wildfire fighting season. Great read by someone who knows what he's talking about.

  • Debra Hennessey
    2019-03-20 04:20

    Skillful blend of horrific fire fighting tales and the history and future of wildfire management. An important book written with respect and sympathy for the people who face such unbelievable danger for a living. A wake-up call to reexamine our response to wildfire treatment in the future.

  • Paulcbry
    2019-03-03 02:53

    The author takes you inside a hotshot group in Arizona leading up to the 2013 Yarnell fire tragedy. The author keeps it interesting describing several of these heroes as they go about their dangerous jobs fighting wildfires.