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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

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (797 )
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4.3 (441 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Denise Kentfield, CA, USA 06-04-12
    Denise Kentfield, CA, USA 06-04-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    "Enjoyed the whole story"
    Where does The Big Burn rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I think Tim Egan did a fantastic job of telling the story. It is among my favorites.


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

    The worst hard time, the story of the dust bowl


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

    The reading did bring the story to life.


    Any additional comments?

    You should listen to this book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rupe Berkeley, CA, United States 05-27-12
    Rupe Berkeley, CA, United States 05-27-12 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Important facet of our country's growth"

    Not as compelling as the Worst Hard Times, but still a nice study in our ability to be a more responsible society that appreciates our natural resources. I find almost everything Teddy Roosevelt does to be inspiring. Full of interesting reporting of characters and heroes during the early 20th century.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sonoma 04-01-12
    Sonoma 04-01-12 Member Since 2005
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    Story
    "Stretching a single event into a too-long story"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Author fell in love with every little fact about the Big Burn and just couldn't leave any out. Book would have been better if it were shorter.


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

    Take out all the repetition about the Big Burn -- author seemed to feel we needed to hear the same thing several times.


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

    A fine narrator


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori Mercer Orange County, CA 09-22-11
    Lori Mercer Orange County, CA 09-22-11 Member Since 2009

    Vada Lorain

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    "History so compelling it feels like fiction..."

    Sure, this is history. So, we know the ending. Still, I had trouble parking my car each day on my way to and from work. I didn't want to stop listening. Egan tells the stories of the people, not just the story of politics. He sets up the history to leave cliff-hangers at the end of chapters. Then, pair all of that with Robertson Dean's fantastic narration, and this is hard to put down. This might be the best Audible book I have listened to yet.

    I

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margo New Mexico 09-13-11
    Margo New Mexico 09-13-11 Member Since 2002

    Tucked away in the beautiful mountains of New Mexico.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Book"

    I really enjoyed this book. It's scary to think that we almost did not have national forest, and that there were so many politicians that didn't see the value of national parks. Teddy Roosevelt has become my new hero. BTW, if you are enjoying learning about Teddy Roosevelt, another good book is River of Doubt.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenn Richmond Hill, ON, Canada 12-27-10
    Glenn Richmond Hill, ON, Canada 12-27-10 Member Since 2008
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    "As great as his book on the Dust Bowl"

    I enjoyed this book as much as his book on the Dust Bowl. It was a great historical story where he explores the issues between conservation of the forest with big business and political needs as well as the hard choices individuals caught up in the fire had to make. While it???s historical accuracy needs to be questioned (huge bias in favor of Teddy Roosevelt) there was still enough truths to give one a better understanding of the creation of the forestry service and the Big Burn.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Wheeler NE Ohio 06-04-10
    E. Wheeler NE Ohio 06-04-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
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    "Interesting story but repetitive and disorganized"

    This is a well researched story of the birth and early years of the National Forest Service, but it tends to be repetitive and disorganized, The story jumps around continuously, but the multiple narratives increase confusion without making the story more interesting. The description of the politics and the fire keeps your interest, but the book would have been better if it was shorter and more straightforward.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret Hildebrand West Coast 12-15-09
    Margaret Hildebrand West Coast 12-15-09 Member Since 2004

    I live full-time in a motorhome, traveling west of the Rockies.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hard to listen to"

    This story is well told, although I found all the characters, their location and where the fire was with respect to the towns named very hard to follow. But the treatment of the rangers made it very hard for me to listen to it. The followup of what happened after Pulaski's ill treatment somewhat redeemed a hard listen.

    3 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. L. Baker North Idaho 03-06-14
    M. L. Baker North Idaho 03-06-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Biased"
    Would you try another book from Timothy Egan and/or Robertson Dean?

    Timothy Egan, no. Robertson Dean, yes


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

    Less political bias.


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

    Some enthusiasm.


    Was The Big Burn worth the listening time?

    Informative.


    Any additional comments?

    I even have the same bias as the author, and the book was too biased. So one-sided it was unbelievable. Not enjoyable to read.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Big John Montana 07-28-13
    Big John Montana 07-28-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Entertaining history, how rare!"

    A very well written entertaining historical book, these are few and far between, and it's nice to be entertained AND learning.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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