This is the best book available that describes in detail California’s most extensive plant community (the chaparral) as well as how to live safely in one of the most fire prone ecosystems on the planet. The book not only provides the basics of chaparral natural history, but also how wildfires are fought, how to protect your home and family from wild land fire, and why it is important to reconnect with one’s surroundings. The revised and updated second printing of this book includes a new chapter on the importance of understanding the relationship between fire, people, and nature. Also included is an updated color photo identification section with 64 of the most common southern California chaparral plants and animals.
Richard Halsey is a noted fire ecologist and trained wildland fire-fighter who has been researching southern California chaparral for over two decades, and is a consultant to environmental and land management agencies. A popular speaker, and instructor at the San Diego Natural History Museum, he coordinates education and research efforts for the California Chaparral Institute. Halsey has been featured on national and regional media, including the Los Angeles Times and Huell Howser’s California’s Green show on PBS.
The second edition of the book was published in 2008 and was awarded the Best Nonfiction-Local Interest Book by the San Diego Book Awards Association. “Wildfires are going to happen and they are happening with increased frequency,” Halsey writes in the book. “The important question now is how do we protect life and property, allow for future growth, and continue to preserve a valuable natural resource? Considering the inevitability of fire in southern California, it’s best to learn how to let fire burn around us instead of through us.”
Here’s another excerpt explaining the title of the book: “Despite progress made in distancing ourselves from nature in the raw, we remain hardwired to rhythms of wilderness. Our ancestors spent millions of years connected to seasonal cycles and life around them. A mere 10,000 years of city life is not enough time to forget. Our own personal connections to things wild remains thinly veiled under the artificial constructs of civilization. Making a conscious decision to reconnect to one’s natural surroundings can provide significant improvements in the quality of life. It is not just about learning to recognize the call of the wrentit, to be able to identify ceanothus, or understand the value of chaparral as a watershed; in a fire-prone environment like southern California, it is a matter of survival.”