Sean Davis discusses “Oregon Wildland Firefighting: A History”

When: 6 to 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Roundabout Books, 900 NW Mt. Washington Drive, Suite 110, Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: or 541-306-6564

When: 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Sunriver Books & Music, 57100 Beaver Drive, Suite 25-C

Cost: Free, registration requested

Contact: or 541-593-2525

As summer approaches, Central Oregonians’ thoughts turn to camping, hiking, mountain biking, paddling and the many warm-­weather pursuits this region is renowned for. But rising temperatures also stoke fears about increasing occurrences of wildland infernos that threaten lives, property, forests and wildlife.

Army veteran, community organizer, author and wildland firefighter Sean Davis has fought on the front lines of wildfires throughout Oregon for 20 years. From the 2002 Biscuit Fire that charred more than half a million acres in the Siskiyou National Forest, to the 2018 Klondike Fire that burned around 175,000 acres and threatened several communities in southwest Oregon, he has witnessed the magnitude and fury of many of Oregon’s largest wildfires.

Davis will discuss his new book, “Oregon Wildland Firefighting: A History,” at events in Bend and Sunriver on Friday and Saturday. The book traces some of the earliest and largest wildfires in Oregon’s history, looking as far back as the Lewis and Clark expedition. Davis includes harrowing accounts from firefighters who were involved in the more recent fires and incredible photographs that convey the destructive power and beauty of the raging flames.

“Fires are going to be more and more prevalent for the foreseeable future, and they are becoming bigger and more intense,” Davis said. “Until 10 years ago, a firefighter might only have one 100,000-acre fire in his whole career. I’ve been on several that size and larger in just the past five years or so.”

Davis has a master of fine arts degree in fiction and previously published the memoir “The Wax Bullet War: Chronicles of a Soldier & Artist” and numerous short stories and magazine articles. He was approached in 2017 by The History Press about writing the book and was enthusiastic about the project for a number of reasons.

“I wrote it because I want to inform people what’s going on with these fires,” Davis said. “I also want to show how incredibly difficult wildland firefighting is, but how rewarding it is, as well. You’re out there 10 weeks in a row working 16-hour days, but it’s in some of the most beautiful country imaginable, and you share amazing camaraderie and a sense of purpose.”

Davis also has more personal reasons for writing the book. Proceeds from the book are being donated to the Doug Dunbar Memorial Scholarship Fund, which honors a friend who was killed in 2004 while fighting the Storm King Fire in Colorado. The book is dedicated to Davis’ 24-year-old son, Dacoda, who worked on a firefighting crew alongside Davis last summer. His 23-year-old daughter, Cora, will be fighting fires with her father for the first time this year, and Davis wanted to give her and other prospective wildland firefighters a realistic overview of what to expect.

The author’s first involvement in firefighting came in 1993 when he was stationed in Hawaii during his initial stint in the Army. Live fire exercises on the rifle and artillery ranges would occasionally trigger fires, and Davis’ unit would have to contain them. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Davis reenlisted in the Oregon National Guard, and his unit was dispatched to help fight the Biscuit Fire in Southern Oregon. After being severely injured while deployed in Iraq, Davis returned to the U.S. to recover and left the military. Despite the physical hardships and danger involved, he started fighting wildfires again during summers with a private contracting company.

“I missed being in situations where your decisions matter, and I wanted to be part of something big, a part of history,” Davis said. “Once you’ve been a part of something like that, you need it.”

The artist and writer in Davis also sees beauty in the midst of the danger and destruction.

“You’re in some of the most beautiful places on this planet, but they’re on fire,” Davis said. “Still there’s a poetry to it somehow. Maybe there’s no poetry without sadness and strangeness. It’s weirdly beautiful when you’re looking up at a 100-foot Douglas fir on fire with pine cones shooting off like rockets and flaming sap dripping down.”