Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World by John Vaillant (Knopf) has won the £50,000 (about $63,150) 2023 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction.
Organizers said that Fire Weather "tells the story of the devastating wildfires that struck Fort McMurray, Alberta in 2016. Triggered by high temperatures and dry conditions, the conflagration originated in the forest and proceeded to engulf half a million acres of land, including the Athabasca oil sands. This forced 90,000 people to evacuate their homes, many of which were destroyed in minutes as the flames swept through entire neighbouring communities. Through the story of the Fort McMurray wildfire, Vaillant skillfully examines the interconnected narratives of the oil industry and climate science, the immense devastation caused by modern wildfires in our increasingly more flammable world, and the lasting impact on the lives affected by these disasters."
Chair of judges Frederick Studemann said, "Fire Weather brings together a series of harrowing human stories with science and geo-economics, in an extraordinary and elegantly rendered account of a terrifying climate disaster that engulfed a community and industry, underscoring our toxic relationship with fossil fuels. Moving back and forth in time, across subjects, and from the particular to the global, this meticulously researched, thrillingly told book forces readers to engage with one of the most urgent issues of our time."
The winners and runner ups in the 10 categories of the 2023 National Outdoor Book Awards, sponsored by the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Idaho State University and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, have been announced and can be seen here.