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Adornment for the 21st Century

Dickman, a former Hotshot, spent five seasons fighting wildfires in California.

dan winters

a uthor K yl e Dickman d is cus s es hi s new b ook a n d fi re p revention for homeow n ers

On the Burning Edge Kyle Dickman’s National Magazine Award–nominated cover story in the November 2013 issue of Outside magazine is now a book. On the Burning Edge: A Fateful Fire and the Men Who Fought It is the true and tragic account of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in Arizona’s 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire. “The story was very personal for me because I used to be a hotshot,” says Dickman, who lives in Santa Fe. “The story also had a strong narrative that had lots of natural segues into the bigger picture of firefighting.” Dickman details Granite Mountain’s 2013 season—some of it spent just 60 miles from Santa Fe at the Thompson Ridge Fire—including the crew’s final hours at Yarnell Hill. “The point of the book is to say ‘Look, here’s this individual awful tragedy, but in the greater context of fire history, this is one of many,’” Dickman says. “Why do young men and women keep dying fighting fires? I wanted to contextualize the tragedy and talk about hopefully how we can prevent this in the future.” Dickman took a moment to speak with Santa Fean about the book and wildfires in the Southwest. ART

Was living in Santa Fe a factor when writing the book? For much of the past decade, the Southwest has been the center for wildland fires in the U.S. We’ve seen some of the biggest fires in the history of wildland firefighting just outside of Santa Fe—Las Conchas, Pacheco, Tres Lagunas, all of those big burns. Wildfires are impossible to ignore when you’re in Santa Fe. What was the role of New Mexico’s Thompson Ridge fire in Granite Mountain’s 2013 season? Most hotshot crews tend to have a fire like that, where all the men coalesce and they figure out the kinks and how to work together as a unit. I think Thompson Ridge, where they were working to save historic buildings [in the Valles Caldera], was really the fire that did it for the crew. Before they went into that fire, they had very little experience on big active blazes, but when they left, they really felt like a unit. They went through quite a bit of turmoil in a little bit of time. What can Santa Feans do to protect their homes from wildfires? For homeowners, especially those who live up on the flanks of Atalaya or up the ski basin road or anywhere in the wildland-urban interface, people need to be proactive about preparing for fires, and that means creating defensible space—using chainsaws and chippers to thin the brush out from around their houses. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that preparing homes for fires rather than reacting to fires is actually a more successful tactic for keeping homes standing through fires.—Whitney Spivey

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