Natural Disasters: Forest Fires, by Luke Thompson
Among all the books aimed at young readers regarding forest fires, this had the least amount of content involved in it, but it was interesting to see anyway how it was that so many books on forest fires want to point out the same few elements and contain the same dodgy statistics. Although this is a somewhat tiresome thing to repeat, where is it that people get the statistic that somewhere around 80% to 90% of all fires are created by people and that this has increased in recent years? How does one know such a thing when the causes of many fires, including very large ones, remains unknown? For example, random searches of the causes of forest fires presents vastly different statistics, with causes in Estonia during the 1990’s being attributed to the general public in 52% of cases, to natural causes in 1% of cases, and to unidentified factors 18% of the time. In contrast, according to ArcGIS StoryMaps, some 44% of forest fires are caused by lightning, 41% by people, 7% by industry, and 8% unknown, and the fires caused by lightning burn 74% of the average area, which is consistent with the situation one sees in fires nowadays. If this is so, then why repeat that human beings are to blame for 80-90% of fires when humans are responsible for half that, if that? What is to be gained by passing along bad statistics?
This book is a short one at less than 40 pages, and not only is the book itself short but it only has three chapters. The book begins with an introduction about forest fires. After that the author explores how forest fires start, which unfortunately is hindered by some bad data that prevents this section from being as informative as it could be. And when a book is this small and has this little to say and what it starts out saying is greatly mistaken, it hinders the credibility of the book’s message as a whole. After that the author talks about the elements of a forest fire, which ends up instead being a discussion of three types of fire, a ground fire, surface fire, and crown fire, which is by far the most dangerous. Finally, the author discusses the way in which fires are both feared and fought and offers some questions as to how this is the case in a basic fashion. After that, the book ends with a fact sheet, new words, suggestions for further reading, resources, index, and information about the author.
Ultimately, when a book passes along bad information, and it is written for young readers who do not know better, it is hard to appreciate a book like this as much as one should. The job of a book like this is to inform, and it does not give nearly as much information as one would want about the subject of forest fires. Admittedly, the information it gives apart from frequencies is better, which suggests that the author was using outdated or biased information to draw on, which suggests some sort of fake news at the bottom of much that is thought of or reported on the etiology of forest fires. At any rate, there is more to this book than that, but this book does not have nearly the amount of material that one would want if one was looking for a more complete book on forest fires, and if one was pondering the meaning of the forest fires that were all around, about which this book has unfortunately little to say. Still, a little is better than nothing, and this book does not take too long or make too many demands except on the reader’s willingness to suspend disbelief on occasion.