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The Big Burn Audiobook

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

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    emhughes 11-03-14
    emhughes 11-03-14 Member Since 2014
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    "American History you don't get in any textbook"
    What did you love best about The Big Burn?

    Good background information about Roosevelt and the forestry service. Loaded with information about how the national parks were established-- Things that most of us just take for granted.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Gifford Pinchot managed to guide Roosevelt into the idea of public lands and conservation, even going so far as to get in the ring with the president to promote his ideas.This outstanding man is not mentioned in any history textbook in our schools today. So sad.


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

    The heroism of the rangers during the blaze.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana 10-11-14
    Diana 10-11-14 Member Since 2013
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    "If only history teachers would teach like this"

    History is often too boring. Dates, places, and facts . . . perhaps a little skewed to favor a point of view.

    I love the way Timothy Egan wrote this book through the experiences and recollections and stories of the people. Each person is a thread and each thread is masterfully woven together.

    This is the most exciting non-fiction book I've ever read. Who would have thought that forestry, politics, north-western regional history, immigrants, drunks, whores, settlers, loggers, miners, millionaire industrialists, railroads, Buffalo soldiers, and the largest fire in American history could combine to make for a gripping yet informative tale.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis FORT PIERCE, FL, United States 07-17-14
    Dennis FORT PIERCE, FL, United States 07-17-14 Member Since 2014

    Currently a local truck driver who has hours to listen to my audio books. I am hooked, some of my fellow drivers enjoy them also

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    "The early America barons and government"
    Would you listen to The Big Burn again? Why?

    It had many interesting facts about how misguided some efforts to help were
    I don't know if my blood pressure would stand another read


    What other book might you compare The Big Burn to and why?

    I enjoy books that present little known facts that let the truth fall where it may
    It took awhile for us to get to enlighted thinking on our forest


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

    Mr Dean is a first class reader who does a great job of making the listener see how it was in difficult times


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

    The great fire and its aftermath and the people who profitted from others loss


    Any additional comments?

    I look forward to reading more of Mr Egans works

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Smith New Orleans, LA USA 04-01-14
    R. Smith New Orleans, LA USA 04-01-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Highly Recommended!"

    Moves fast, not a word wasted. Though tragic and gruesome, the account of the fire is a thrill ride, tough to pause. The parts about corrupt politicians in the pockets of big business brings to mind the crony capitalism practiced to this day. As always, Robertson Dean delivers a flawless narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Acteon Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 03-19-14
    Acteon Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 03-19-14

    Acteon

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    "Terrific"
    Where does The Big Burn rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Pretty high, though I've listened to many good ones


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Gifford Pinchot, one of the truly great men in U.S. history but about whom I knew nothing. Teddy Roosevelt, who this book made me realize was one of America's very best presidents.
    Ed Pulaski, a hero whom the U.S. government treated with shameful shabbiness (as it did other forest rangers).


    What about Robertson Dean’s performance did you like?

    He was great (I don't say this often). You felt as if you were there at the great fire of 1900.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes. I was very moved by foresight and public spirit of Pinchot and Roosevelt, and equally disgusted by the likes of mean-minded Senator Weldon Heyburn and the rapacious William A. Clark.


    Any additional comments?

    This book vividly describes a very important episode in U.S. history whose significance is not often recognized.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edward 10-28-13
    Edward 10-28-13
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    "Little known American History"
    If you could sum up The Big Burn in three words, what would they be?

    Unknown, Scary, Typical


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Big Burn?

    The ferocity of the fire.


    What about Robertson Dean’s performance did you like?

    Matter of fact story telling.


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

    Government ineptitude almost destroys the forest of the West.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia 06-03-13
    Cynthia 06-03-13 Member Since 2011

    I'm a trucker of nearly 25 years. Listening to the radio is a matter of habit for me, but hearing the same songs over and over and OVER again became old. Audio books help those miles roll by faster!

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    "How our national forests started"
    Any additional comments?

    This is a very good historical account of the origins of The United States' national park system and how a huge, tragic forest fire played an instrumental role. Well researched and interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol Elk City, OK, United States 05-16-13
    Carol Elk City, OK, United States 05-16-13
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    "Beyond History 101 . . ."

    I enjoyed all the ways this book worked: the rage of an American west wildfire, a graphic description of fighting fire amidst the politics and technology of the times. I was grateful for the bits of personal and family drama that Egan wove into the story. Such touches make History come to life. The only reason that I didn’t give this book 5 stars across the board was that once in a while I felt that there were too many dreary political bits. Lapses like those long lectures we’ve all endured. I wanted much more on Teddy R’s adventures because there is no doubt that he was the ‘Big Burn’ of his time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Waykuy 03-16-13
    Waykuy 03-16-13 Member Since 2012

    kas7946

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    "Interesting story but very biased perspective."
    What did you like best about The Big Burn? What did you like least?

    The story of the fire and the beginnings of the Forest Service were interesting. The biased political portrayals could have been written by the DNC with assistance from the Sierra Club.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    It should have been a much more objective history.


    Have you listened to any of Robertson Dean’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Probably not.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anne ARLINGTON, VA, United States 03-13-13
    Anne ARLINGTON, VA, United States 03-13-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Makes a dry subject entertaining"

    I never thought I would want to learn about Theodore Roosevelt's policies towards natural resource management.

    Timothy Egan changed that.

    Egan does a great job of blending together dry facts with personal details and stories. I quickly became invested in the people he described and found myself rooting for them, impatiently waiting for the next section of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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