Ghosts of the Fireground by Peter M. Leschak
Echoes of the Great Peshtigo Fire and the Calling of a Wildland Firefighter

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On October 8, 1871, a wildfire of staggering immensity transformed the lumbering town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin (population 2,000), into a literal, burning hell. It was the deadliest fire in North American history. At least 1,200 people died, and the actual number of fatalities is unknown. Eighteen hundred square miles of woods, fields, and settlements were burned. By cruel coincidence, it was the very day and hour of the Great Chicago Fire.... The unlikely simultaneity of the two infernos has rendered Peshtigo unknown to most Americans.

April 2000: On the brink of one of the most ferocious fire seasons ever recorded, and faced with the challenge of commanding an elite attack helicopter team, wildland firefighter Peter Leschak discovers Father Pernin's written account of surviving the wildfire that devastated Peshtigo. As he takes us through Father Pernin's dangerous clash with the Great Peshtigo Fire, Leschak recounts his journey from a life preparing for the ministry to a career dedicated to fighting fires. In so doing, he breathes life into one of the most astounding and little-known disasters in American history and captures the sacred and mysterious pull of the fireground. From Father Pernin's struggle with an inferno so hot that not even the cold waters of the Peshtigo River guaranteed safety to the danger of today's frontline battles in America's wildlands, Ghosts of the Fireground weaves seamlessly between these compelling adventures, offering a breathtaking look at the awesome power of fire and the courageous and noble pursuit that is wildland firefighting.


About Peter M. Leschak

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Peter M. Leschak has been a firefighter in both wildland and municipal settings for more than twenty years. He's the author of several acclaimed works of nonfiction, including "Letters from Side Lake" and "The Bear Guardian, " winner of the Minnesota Book Award. Leschak has written for numerous periodicals, including "Harper's, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, " and "Outdoor Life.
Published July 2, 2002 by HarperOne. 288 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Religion & Spirituality, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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“Action,” he says, “is the crux of sentient life,” and the crazy-sublime world of wildfires is just the place to find it, though he admits that “anyone who does it for the money is either desperately derelict or requires remedial arithmetic.” Like Pernin, who led dozens to safety during the Pesht...

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He threads the story of the Peshtigo fire throughout the book, along with other historical facts about American forest fires and the formation of a wildfire "subculture."

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