This is more than just a comprehensive history of fires and firefighters. The manner of the telling, the immense amount of research that has gone into it, combine to make it a lively study of a pioneer country pushing westward despite one of the gravest of enemies, Fire. The early history is backgrounded with something of the importance of fire to pre-historic man, with the record of cities devastated -- Carthage, Rome, Nineveh, Babylon -- and not so many centuries ago, London. But the main emphasis is on America, from the ever present threat of fire from Indian attack, to today's modern equipment, fire preventive methods, trained fighters. In early years, the cities suffered, Boston even outstripping New York, and the bucket brigades were small hindrance, the volunteer departments more like clubs than serious fire fighters. Fires were set for revenge; from religious complexes; as a result of political battles -- and from man's carelessness. Industrial fires, modern protection and safety devices grew. Earthquakes started other fires- San Francisco the biggest example. Forest fires wiped out the nation's lumber heritage. There were horrors enough to curdle the blood, and Morris has pin pointed many of them. And spotted too the tales of heroism and devotion. The steam engine with its charging horses has gone with the stage coach and clipper ship, but collecting of mementoes of past firefighting history is a passion with a growing number of collectors, and this book is right down their alley . A man's and boy's book primarily.