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The Big Burn Audiobook

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

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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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  •  
    Scott Nasu, Japan 09-03-10
    Scott Nasu, Japan 09-03-10 Member Since 2007
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    "A gripping account of a forgotten US disaster"

    Egan's book, though non-fiction, is constructed like a great Hollywood movie: introducing the characters and getting us to care about them before dropping them into the unfolding disaster. I knew little about America from the years between the Civil War and World War I, but the many colorful anecdotes about Teddy Roosevelt alone have got me searching for a great biography on that president.

    I found this to be a real "page-turner" for me; I was making time to listen, and listening in situations I usually don't because I was so caught up in the narrative, particularly the detailed accounts of human bravery and tragedy on those fateful days of August 20th and 21st, 1910. Egan researched this material thoroughly, and it shows. Robertson Dean's narration, in his magnificent baritone, is classy.

    I've now consumed 50 books on Audible, and this is probably my second favorite, after Shadow Divers.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    joebaker34 Botsy 02-27-15
    joebaker34 Botsy 02-27-15

    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 Wyoming 10-08-14
    George Wyoming 10-08-14

    Mountainbiker, Skier, Riverman, Dzedo

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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
  •  
    Sharon Schafer Bennett The Woodlands, TX, United States 03-29-13
    Sharon Schafer Bennett The Woodlands, TX, United States 03-29-13 Member Since 2014

    My reading and listening tastes are eclectic.

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    "Yipee! Great Book! Listen to This!"

    I listened to this while hiking at Big Bend National Park. This book made me want to find me a Polanski and become a National Forest Ranger. It is a great book and amazingly well read. It is a gripping story, and you will find yourself doing stuff to keep from turning it off. Like laying in your tent in the dark, knowing you need to go to sleep, but not doing it so you can listen some more. I actually came back and bought a couple of books that weren't on tape about this subject so I could learn more. Awesome! Even if you are not particularly into National Parks, history, or the Forestry Service, this is a good listen with suspense, fear, intrigue, political machinations, shenanigans, fire, and salvation.

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

    Jim Bronson

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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
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    Daryl Houston, TX United States 06-18-12
    Daryl Houston, TX United States 06-18-12 Member Since 2008

    Avid listener/reader.

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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 2016
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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
  •  
    Gary Greeley, CO, United States 03-15-12
    Gary Greeley, CO, United States 03-15-12 Member Since 2015
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    "History came alive."
    What other book might you compare The Big Burn to and why?

    The Perfect Storm is like The Big Burn. The difference is that The Big Burn includes historical persons and how the Federal government abandoned the rangers of the early days of the U.S. Forest Service at their time of greatest need.


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

    There is a point when the last train out was full and those that could not get on realized they were probably not going to survive. It is tempting to think this is a fictional story. If the government did even half of the things they did in this book the people would demand that someone be criminally charged.


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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