The Big Burn

Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire That Saved America

By Timothy Egan; Robertson Dean (Performed by)
(Brilliance Audio, Compact Disc, 9781441806956)

Publication Date: October 2009

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Hardcover, Compact Disc, MP3 CD, MP3 CD, Compact Disc, MP3 CD, MP3 CD

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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Winter 2011 Reading Group List
“Well-researched, compassionate, and vivid, Egan's book tells the interconnected stories of the 'Big Burn' forest fire of 1910, the founding of the National Park system, the creation of the enduring idea of conservation, and the immigration and labor histories of the Rocky Mountain West. These gracefully interwoven stories create a memorable picture of the political, social, cultural, and natural forces at play at a pivotal moment in the nation's history. Add to this the powerful personalities of Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, and the wide array of characters who made up the first generation of forest rangers, and you have a 'can't put it down' firestorm of a book in your hands!”
-- John Evans, DIESEL, A Bookstore, Oakland


Description
On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno that jumped from treetop to ridge as it raged, destroying towns and timber in the blink of an eye. Forest rangers had assembled nearly ten thousand men college boys, day workers, immigrants from mining camps to fight the fire. But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers nor anyone else knew how to subdue them. Egan narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force. Equally dramatic is the larger story he tells of outsized president Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pioneering the notion of conservation, Roosevelt and Pinchot did nothing less than create the idea of public land as our national treasure, owned by and preserved for every citizen. The robber barons fought Roosevelt and Pinchot's rangers, but the Big Burn saved the forests even as it destroyed them: the heroism shown by the rangers turned public opinion permanently in their favor and became the creation myth that drove the Forest Service, with consequences still felt in the way our national lands are protected or not ? today.



NPR
Thursday, Oct 29, 2009

Author Timothy Egan argues in The Big Burn that the forest fire of 1910 — the largest in American history — actually saved the forests, even as its flames charred the trees. It helped rally public support, Egan explains, behind Theodore Roosevelt's push to protect national lands. More at NPR.org

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Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. This gripping account begins with the fire’s destruction of Wallace, Idaho. What kinds of things make people late to the evacuating train? What would you bring with you if you were allowed only a case small enough to fit on your lap? 

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