Michael Kodas MEGAFIRE

Event date: 
Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm


How we have mismanaged fire over the last century—and the costs we’re paying.

Around the world, writes award-winning journalist and photographer Kodas (Environmental Journalism/Univ. of Colorado; High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed, 2008, etc.), “megafires” are billowing each fire season, thanks to a perfect storm of related causes: climate change is making forests drier, beetles and other pests are making kindling of vast stretches of woodland, and “booming development…[has] filled forests with human-produced sparks and heat,” to name just a few. Those vast fires flourish because of a miscalculated fire regimen—first trying to “extinguish every wildfire in the country,” thereby allowing a vast inventory of flammable materials to build up, then introducing controlled burns that too often get out of control. In this country, the result is the projected annual burning, by midcentury, of an area the size of Maine. Trained as a forest firefighter, Kodas notes that he “didn’t anticipate that schooling would be as much in economics and politics as it was in fuels and fire weather,” since both politics and economics dominate decisions about fires and their aftermath. A case in point that he covers in depth is the Yarnell Hill Fire of 2013, in which 19 Arizona firefighters died; that story has been well-treated elsewhere, but Kodas brings new insight to the events and especially the legal wrangles that followed the blaze. More are likely to die, civilians and firefighters alike. The costs, as the author chronicles, are not just in terms of human lives, but also billions of dollars in property damage and economic loss—to say nothing of the costs states and municipalities must now shoulder as the federal government backs away from paying for firefighting. As Kodas dourly notes, Congress continues to block more funding even as the death count climbs.

Worthy of shelving alongside the best of modern firefighting books—and of the broadest audience, especially in territories where fires are likely to rage.

About Michael Kodas

Michael Kodas is the Associate Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, an award-winning photojournalist and reporter, and the author of the bestselling book High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed.

His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Outside.comOnEarth.org, GEODer Spiegel, The Denver Post, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, and numerous other publications in the United States and abroad. He has appeared on the PBS NewsHour with Judy WoodruffAll Things Considered on National Public Radio, Dateline NBC, and many other radio and television programs. From 1987 until 2008 he was a staff photographer, picture editor and writer at The Hartford Courant, in Hartford, Connecticut.

USA Book News honored High Crimes as Best Non-Fiction in the National Best Books awards of 2008, however the book's most prestigious honor was being a question on the gameshow Jeopardy!. Kodas was also part of a team of journalists at The Courant awarded the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage in 1999. Among other honors, he received a Gold Medal from the Lowell Thomas/Society of American Travel Writers for Best Self-Illustrated Travel Article in 2005, as well as awards in the Pictures of the Year International competition, and from the National Press Photographers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.

For more than two decades Michael has taken his cameras and notebooks to the most difficult to reach environments on the planet. He has worked as a forest firefighter, circumnavigated Long Island Sound in a sea kayak, trekked through the rainforests of Brazil and Costa Rica, documented veterans mapping minefields in Vietnam, sailed aboard the Amistad, ridden fishing vessels into the Atlantic Ocean, and climbed to the summit of Ama Dablam, a 22,494-foot peak in Nepal. In 2004 and 2006 he climbed on Mount Everest to investigate crime in the Himalaya.

Michael's multimedia speaking engagements have drawn hundreds of visitors to universities and corporate events across the United States. His photographs and video make for uniquely inspiring and motivating events.

Michael completed photojournalism and news/editorial programs at the University of Missouri, was a Davidoff Scholar at the Wesleyan Writers Workshop and a Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

Event address: 
Penguin Bookshop
417 Beaver Street
Sewickley, PA 15143