Title: Fire Season
Author: V H Folland
Published: Ragged Angel Dec 2010
Synopsis: When forest fire threatens the communities near Matt’s small airstrip at Brooke’s Vale, flying fire prevention missions is initially just about being a good neighbour. Unfortunately his primary experience is cropspraying, with firefighting a distant second. Involuntarily grounded, Matt is left to organise the community when communications and power are lost. With the airfield the only connection to the outside world, it is vital to get people out. Unfortunately Brooke’s Vale isn’t the only town under threat. A rash of arsonists, unseasonal winds, and the sheer scale of the fires leave the emergency services stretched beyond the limit. With thirty stranded residents, the roads blocked, one two-seater aircraft, and help that may arrive too late, he’s got his work cut out
Status: Read from June 09 to 10, 2011 — I own a copy
Bush fires are unfortunately a hallmark of summer. In the past decade Australia has faced a serious fire threat resulting in loss of lives and property every year. Thankfully I have been directly involved only once, menaced by flames and thick, ashy smoke on either side of the road as my husband (then boyfriend) and I headed out to his parent’s property (well away from the fires).
Set in New Zealand, Fire Season is a dramatic novel that illustrates the horror of being in the path of a raging inferno. The residents of Brooke’s Vale are certain they will be safe from the fire, it has been 120 years since the valley’s natural defenses have been breached. At the Vale’s small airstrip, Matt, Jim, Jill and Rose warily watch the smoke billow across the landscape. Matt and Jim are pilots and as it becomes increasingly obvious that the fire front is uncontrolled they use Matt’s crop dusting plane to assist with the fire fighting efforts. Yet the fire continues to rage, and the Valley’s residents find themselves trapped by the steadily advancing flames.
Fire Season begins slowly as the fire burns a familiar path outside of the Valley but as the fire’s threat to the Vale’s residents grows, so does the pace of the storyline. Folland’s timeline cover’s just over four days charting the fire’s movement and increasing threat. The tension is built deliberately as the residents anxiety grows culminating in their frantic efforts to escape the razing of their valley. Their perilous flight from the Vale is a nail biting climax.
Folland’s characters are well developed and I thought their emotions and behaviour genuine. Matt’s frustration and horror as he fails to save a young family from the maelstrom and Jim’s exhaustion at flying is such high pressure conditions rings true. So does the fear and panic the residents experience when they realise they are trapped.
Folland’s careful research and experience in aviation shows in his detailed descriptions of the planes and their flight. It is easy to imagine the heat and winds buffeting the small plane as it flies above the burning landscape. The depiction of the fire fighting efforts also seem accurate.
Fire Season captures the horror of a surging fire front and the bravery of small communities that face the terrifying threat. Well written and suspenseful this novel is an absorbing read.
About the Author
VH Folland is a British author with a lifelong interest in aviation and engineering. On a school trip to Kew Gardens most of the class were looking at the plants, and one small child was staring up at the planes on Heathrow approach. A career in consulting spanning media, defence and engineering gave this interest plenty of time to grow.