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The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America | [Timothy Egan]

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America

In The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan put the environmental disaster of the Dust Bowl at the center of a rich history, told through characters he brought to indelible life. Now he performs the same alchemy with The Big Burn, the largest-ever forest fire in America, a tragedy that cemented Teddy Roosevelt's legacy.
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Publisher's Summary

In The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan put the environmental disaster of the Dust Bowl at the center of a rich history, told through characters he brought to indelible life. Now he performs the same alchemy with The Big Burn, the largest-ever forest fire in America, a tragedy that cemented Teddy Roosevelt's legacy.

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 hundreds of small blazes into a roaring inferno that destroyed towns and timber in an eye-blink. Forest rangers assembled nearly 10,000 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 with unstoppable dramatic force. Equally dramatic is the larger story he tells of 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 national forests as our national treasure, owned by and preserved for every citizen. The robber barons fought them, but the fire saved the forests even as it destroyed them: the heroism shown by the rangers turned public opinion permanently in favor of the forests, even as it changed the mission of the Forest Service, with consequences felt in the fires of today.

The Big Burn tells an epic story, paints a moving portrait of the people who lived it, and offers a critical cautionary tale for our time.

©2009 Timothy Egan; (P)2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What Members Say

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  •  
    Katherine El Dorado, CA, United States 12-03-09
    Katherine El Dorado, CA, United States 12-03-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Superb Audio Book"

    This is one of my all-time favorite audio books. The narration creates an alive and fascinating history. You may have to appreciate conservation or fire fighting to really love the book. There were many fascinating people that made up this history. The narration makes them seem real and compelling. There were many courageous men and women that created the start of conservation and survived this great fire.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    joebaker34 Botsy 02-27-15
    joebaker34 Botsy 02-27-15 Member Since 2015

    I read hella books

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    "Phenomenal Book, Great read!"
    Where does The Big Burn rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    By far the greatest book I have read in my entire lifetime.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Gifford Pinchot because he knocked Teddy Roosevelt out.


    What does Robertson Dean bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He takes you into the heart of the fire.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    I was moved when the nun went back to save the elders in the basement of the hospital.


    Any additional comments?

    Best book ever.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    George K. 10-08-14
    George K. 10-08-14

    Riverrunner, Powderhound, Pizzaiolo, Mountainbiker, Fisherman, Dzedo to James

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    "Great listen when splitting firewood"
    Where does The Big Burn rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I learned a lot . Lots of history about the establishment of the National Forest and Western wildfire. I live next to a National Forest and recreate routinely on the forest. It was right up my alley. Good thing to listen to when you are laying in firewood for winter.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    There are many well drawn characters in this book. Teddy Roosevelt. Ed Polaski. This is a strength of the book. My favorite character was Gifford Pinchot . He is a man in large part forgotten but a founding father of the American conservation movement . His partnership/friendship with Teddy R has shaped modern conservation for more than a century. Even Teddy thought GP radical in his day. A hundred years later more of us need to appreciate and realize the importance of what Pinchot advocated and accomplished against powerful interests.


    What does Robertson Dean bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    RD has a big, deep voice, and is a serious pro, but he isn't necessarily one of my favorites.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Idaho Burning!


    Any additional comments?

    Timothy Egan is one of my favorite narrative nonfiction writers. Everything I have read of his is meticulously researched and fired with a strong narrative. Makes him a very easy read and/or listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 11-22-13
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 11-22-13 Member Since 2011

    I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.

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    "What an adventure"

    I greatly enjoyed the Big Burn. Here's the story of the national park service, a service that nearly never happened. Teddy Roosevelt had to work some serious legislative magic to make it happen and when it did it was poorly accepted, underfunded, and rarely supported. But into the world these rangers went, hoping to protect our natural resources. And immediately the biggest fire any of them would ever see broke out.

    This is the story of the new rangers and their boss, Gifford Pinchot, trying to establish a service. This is also the story of a town in the great north that finds itself in the path of a hellish blaze. How will they escape, how will they fight the blaze, and who will survive when it dies down? It's a wonderful story of bravery and ingenuity. The narration is thoughtful and crisp and the story is all the more exciting because it's true. Enjoy.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Boots 12-29-12
    Boots 12-29-12

    Jim Bronson

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Timmmmm-berrrrrrrr"
    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    I wish when I was younger I would have had some mentoring to have guided me towards a career in the US Forest Service, which is largely what this book is about. Ed Pulaski, a U.S. Forest Service ranger a little know hero outside the forest, and Gifford Pinchot are two icons, that to this day have saved what would have been destroyed decades past! Great story!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 06-26-12
    C. Telfair Shepherdstown, WV, United States 06-26-12

    Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!

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    "A Wonderful Story Teller"

    I discovered Timothy Egan with "The Worst Hard Time" and have been reading his books and newspaper columns ever since. He has a wonderful, journalistic style that is both entertaining and informative.
    I learned a lot from this book and highly recommend it for those who like their history fascinating and readable.
    Good narrator, too.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daryl Houston, TX United States 06-18-12
    Daryl Houston, TX United States 06-18-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Not Just About The Big Burn"

    I downloaded this book expecting to read about a natural disaster that I had never even heard of. Instead, I got a book that described the events and characters that led up to the Big Burn. I learned of Robber Barons, corrupt senators who were not elected in that time period,but appointed, idealistic conservationists, forest rangers who were the prototypes for generations to come, one president who was true blue and another one who was lazy and ineffective. I learned of why a third party presidential run was done because winning primaries was not a guarantee of getting the nomination. After I learned about all of this, then the fire started. The story itself is timeless as all of the same ingredients exist today, including raging wildfires in the Rocky Mountain west. The narrator has a deep easy to understand voice, but I had to take some of the bass out of my iPod so it wouldn't vibrate the speakers. In short, I got a lot more than I bargained for when I listened to this book. Anyone interested in the outdoors and how our public lands were started should consider this book a must read.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura 04-10-12
    Laura 04-10-12
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    "If you like Ken Burns, listen to this."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This is an audible documentary of the National Forests. The narration and writing is so well done, I get lost in the story and can envision the fire leaping at myself, as if I were an observer. I have new heros and they lived trough this inferno!


    What did you like best about this story?

    This is a story about great men and women. Some well known, some that Timothy Egan has pulled out from the shadows and given them the spotlight they have long deserved. He has made a world full of sound, light and life in his writing. I still feel the sparks coming down and taste the smoke in the air.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JoAnn 03-17-12
    JoAnn 03-17-12 Member Since 2015
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    "A little too long"

    I really enjoy historical non-fiction but this one is a little too long. Could have been more concise. I ended up skipping through some parts to get to the end.

    I loved this author's dust bowl book but this one just wasn't as interesting.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave Gresham, OR, United States 03-15-12
    Dave Gresham, OR, United States 03-15-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Very Interesting History, and Well Written"
    What made the experience of listening to The Big Burn the most enjoyable?

    The author weaves in the storyline of the fire with the broader political history. It adds a page-turner element to it. Very good.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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