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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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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  • Story

Forgotten chapter in conservation history

this book is excellent accounting of the history of the conservation movement as a tool of government. I never understood how "progressive" Teddy Roosevelt was and how the same tired arguments against conservation are still espoused

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Infuriating, enlightening, terrifying

My Dad was a Forest Service Ranger for many years, which may explain why I liked this book so much and learning about the early history of the Service and the big fire that caused so many changes. The accounts of the fire, many quotes from people who experienced the horror, were frightening and well-written. It does lose one star for a tenancy to repetition and bias - even though I happen to agree with the bias.

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Historically relevant

The hot dry inland Northwest summer of 2015 prompted this read. The conditions were similar; fortunately the 70 mph winds waited until November otherwise someone could've written The Big Burn 2. A fascinating tale of local history that happened a mere century ago. It is good to be reminded that nature is an unstoppable force and that we humans live at its mercy. The parallel tale of the movement to preserve land it in its natural state and the never ending battle against greed and consumption was inspirational.

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  • J. Best
  • Graham, Washington USA
  • 01-23-16

Outstanding book!

The Big Burn was a wonderful story, and it kept me spellbound. The character development in this book makes you feel like you know Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt, and so many others. If you love history you will love this book. I enjoyed hearing about Ed Pulaski, the Forest Service and the politics to defend and conserve our land. I had not read much on President Taft so all of that was an eye opener for me! It was a fantastic book!

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Great History of Forest Service

Would you listen to The Big Burn again? Why?

No

What did you like best about this story?

The Forest Service and their sacrifices.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No

Any additional comments?

This is an excellent book, but I have to take stars off because of the bias for TR and lazy reporting on Wm Howard Taft. Like any other person or president, TR was not all good or all bad. He was colorful & Egan seemed taken by him. His descriptions of Taft, however, were inexcusable. Taft was a large man but for Egan, Taft's size seems to his only characteristic. Taft was an accomplished man, later the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I would have much rather heard about TR & Taft's disagreements without continuing to hear about Taft's size.

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More Gifford Pinchot than Roosevelt

Any additional comments?

The story was good, however the title is a little misleading. Teddy Roosevelt plays a bit part in this story and based on the actual outcomes of US Forestry policy, as told by this book, it's doubtful if either the fire or Roosevelt saved America. However if you go into this knowing you'll hear about the earliest days of the US Forest Service and how many interesting people were affected by the biggest US forest fire (at that time) you'll enjoy it. You'll learn quite a bit about Gifford Pinchot and possibly, like me, want to hear more of his story. Overall I recommend it for anyone interested in an interesting piece of history from the early 20th century.

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Perfect!

If you have a love for the outdoors and how our forfathers fought for its preservation this is an amazing story of why WE still get to enjoy these things today! The Narrator is perfect for this story

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Fascinating bit of history that is often forgoten

I was immediately pulled in by this book. It is structured in a brilliant way and the subject matter was something I had barely ever heard about - never even touched upon in my public schools growing up.

So, listening to the build up of the forest service - and the circumstances around the fire - had a sense of unreality for me. I had to keep reminding myself that this really happened. Part of that was because of the scale of the destruction and the way the heroes were badly treated (before, during, and after the fire). Overall, I came away with the strong belief that this is a part of American history that should have much more attention.

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Excellent history of Forest Services

I thought I would like this book but I found out I loved it! Fascinating story of the rise of the National Forestry Service.

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  • Laurie
  • Florence, KY, United States
  • 07-11-15

Great listen

If you like history, this is a good listen about an event that never got much attention. Well researched and good narration.