Into the Inferno
A Photographer’s Journey through California’s Megafires and Fallout
by Stuart Palley
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Pub Date 26 Apr 2022 | Archive Date Not set
In the tradition of Young Men and Fire and Fire on the Mountain, Stuart Palley’s memoir Into the Inferno documents eight years of devastating wildfire in California, showing how fire can transform a landscape as well as a soul …
For nearly a decade, Palley has been on the frontline of fire. He has witnessed homeowners on the worst day of their lives. He’s seen puddles of aluminum where cars were once parked. He’s watched as 150-foot walls of flame cascaded down mountainsides and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. And he’s captured, time and again, the tireless commitment of firefighters as they work to save lives and homes, in terrain where fire always seems to have the upper hand.
In this memoir, Palley recalls how he went from learning to be safe on the fireline to a fire-savvy documentarian of wildfire and climate change. He covers some of California’s largest, most destructive, and deadliest fires between 2012 and 2020, lugging his gear from the Wine Country Fire Siege to the Thomas Fire and ultimately to the Woolsey Fire in Malibu. And he shows how, in a relatively short span of time, fire season in California has grown into a perpetual crisis, requiring billions of dollars and thousands of firefighters each year.
Ultimately, the experiences, the voices, the science shared in the memoir form an urgent call for climate action. Into the Inferno stands alongside Palley’s photography to show just what kind of environmental tragedy we can expect if we do nothing.
A Note From the Publisher
“Very few photographers understand the nuances of fire like Stuart Palley. With Into the Inferno, Palley takes the reader on his journey to the heart of some of the most historic and destructive fires in the United States, and provides compelling insight into the complexities of photographing wildfires while trying to stay safe, and ultimately making one of the most poignant and important photographic records of the effects of climate change to date. This book is essential reading for anyone looking for insight into the treacherous journey of those covering and fighting fires.”
—Lynsey Addario, Pulitzer Prize–winning photojournalist and author of It’s What I Do and Of Love & War
“From his front-row seat, Palley pens a compelling, personal narrative of what it’s like to watch the world burn. His journey into realizing that climate change is a current disaster, not a future one, is ultimately a destination we’re all going to have to reach. Let Palley be your guide to understanding the new normal.”
—Wes Siler, editor and columnist at Outside magazine
“Stuart is a much needed and powerful voice in the face of the climate emergency. Like his photos, his writing viscerally captures the unique and haunting experience each fire has on ecosystems, survivors, and the communities impacted. Into the Inferno captures the frontlines of each megafire and translates each experience into urgency, loss, and a sobering foreshadowing of our future in an age of fire.”
—Julia Jackson, founder and CEO, Grounded Summit and Foundation
• Major prepublication buzz and outreach
• National features, interviews, and reviews
• Print and online advertising
• Bookseller and library trade show marketing and appearances
• Social media campaign
• With wildfires and increasingly extreme weather threatening millions of Americans each year, Palley's memoir and call to action is more relevant and important than ever
• Author website: StuartPalley.com
• Author Twitter and Instagram: @stuartpalley
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
This book is one that all Californians should read. Our climate is changing drastically and now we have a “fire year” rather than a “fire season.” This can be a difficult (at times) book to read but the author has seen and documented many of our catastrophic fires and gives a firsthand look at how California’s fire landscape is changing.
Stuart Palley is an incredibly skilled photographer, and you will recognize some of his iconic images of California wildfires, which are included at the back of the book. The dramatic images bring home the story of each fire with an emotional impact. These are our communities and our wildlands that are burning. For those of us who live in the wildland urban interface, which is quite a large swath of California, these images bring home the point that we are all at risk now. None of us will escape the effects of climate change. Drought and wildfire are the new normal for California.
I have seen several large wildfires and been evacuated due to approaching fire, so I really felt these images and the stories behind them viscerally. If you’ve experienced wildfire in California, you know what I mean. Most of us pack up and run from fire, but Palley runs toward it with cameras ready. He brings stunning images from the fire lines to show the world the real and dramatic effects of climate change in the state of California. Many of his images are shot at night, creating surreal and dramatic views and lighting effects. I wish that there were more of his images in the book, but I also think that might be too much. The images are beautiful, but what they document is tragedy and terror. Even in something so destructive as wildfire, the photographer has managed to find the beautiful moments, the lighting that tells the story. He shows us the human side of fire too. The story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and their loss is a grim reminder of the dangers firefighters face when they go into these infernos. Honoring the lost firefighters is important and I was glad that Palley included this story in the book, so that we can remember them.
There are stories here from Paradise, Woolsey, and so many more. The book also shows how the author grew as a photographer, from beginning to photograph fires, to becoming a seasoned pro with firefighting training and equipment of his own. His story of personal growth is set to the background of the growing wildfire crisis in California after decades of drought has led to increased fire danger up and down the state.
The writing style is eloquent and I loved the author’s way of bringing the story to life with visual language. You almost feel like you are there. It can be an emotional subject to read about, especially if you have experienced any of these large fires, but this book is worth the read. Five stars plus.
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