• The Big Burn

  • Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America
  • By: Timothy Egan
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 9 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (109 ratings)
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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 and the tragedy that cemented Teddy Roosevelt's legacy in the land. 

On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno that jumped from treetop to ridge as it raged, destroying towns and timber in an eyeblink. Forest rangers had assembled nearly 10,000 men - college boys, day-workers, immigrants from mining camps - to fight the fires. 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 against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force, through the eyes of the people who lived it. Equally dramatic, though, is the larger story he tells of outsized 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 public land as our national treasure, owned by every citizen. The robber barons fought him and the rangers charged with protecting the reserves, but even as TR's national forests were smoldering they were saved: The heroism shown by those same rangers turned public opinion permanently in favor of the forests, though 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)2021 HMH Adult Audio

What listeners say about The Big Burn

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  • Overall
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Excellent!!

Really enjoyed this book and the story of the brave men and women who fought for forest preservation and the Big Burn. Hearing stories about the Bitterroots ( where I grew up) and other surrounding towns and forests brought back many memories. This book was a great history lesson of the Forest Service and it’s beginnings.

1 person found this helpful

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Riveting

My DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) book club chose “The Big Burn” after reading Eagan’s “The Worst Hard Time”. Our selections visit history with stories and characters that shaped America. “The Big Burn” did not disappoint. Egan is a consummate storyteller, even poetic at times. Anyone with an interest in early 20th century politics, policy, conservation, and the history of the Forest Service will love this book.

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Fascinating Saga

I listened to this book while I was working at jigsaw puzzle and it was perfect for that. You don't have to hang on every word to still enjoy and exciting historical story.

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  • JJ
  • 12-15-21

A must read for all Americans

I grew up a Forest Service brat, my Mother and Father both had full careers, my brothers and I starting ours at the Forest Service. I worked in Wallace, Avery, and on the Coeur d’Alene. We all know what a Pulaski is and we have all heard stories of the “Big Burn”, but I never knew the full history, never knew the true start to the Forest Service, and never knew the real devastation of the Big Burn, despite seeing the old scars as we were counting on plots or profiling the mountain side. This book really opened my eyes and my soul to the history. So much so that I am going back to hike Pulaski’s trail with fresh eyes as soon as the winter breaks and spring allows. Absolutely fascinating history and something everyone in America should read!

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Educational and entertaining

History, story.
If your interested in the forest department this is a great book for you!

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History worth learning

This book is one that gives insight into how politics works and how conservation can also go awry.
It also shows how party politics are shaped by the personalities and not always by their past platforms.
It sickens me to know how lives were not respected and the loss of life was given less value than a lost fancy house.
I appreciate the story of Ione Adair being included.

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Interesting Time in history

I really enjoyed this and learned a lot. I have a new and profound respect for the visionaries that were Roosevelt, Pinchot and Pulaski.

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Mixing fire, robber barons, idealists & dirty pols

This is a raging story of battles between early conservationists & self-serving senators in the decades after President Roosevelt recognized the promise of our wild lands...and those who tried to stop him. The saga seesaws back and forward between the East & the West and between early rangers and the congress which tried to put the concept of national forests on the back bench in favor of their own gain. Throw in the onslaught of the railroads for more danger to the land....

Brilliantly written, beautifully narrated.

If you live in the American West--- read this important history.

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Outstanding book story and narration

This book contains history that you will never read how syndicates and Trust really write the west how they stole the land and made themselves wealthy. While my ancestors were hoping to get 160 acre plot in Oklahoma land run bakers from the government of Indian land for two dollars an acre these robber barons we’re getting land for free from the government the rich get richer and the rest of us just struggle. It does tell the story of the good side of teddy Roosevelt and Pinchot. All in all it’s an excellent book

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headline

would have enjoyed less ideological discourse about pinchot, muir, etc and more about approaches to fighting fire and the actual battle against big blowup. but egan is a master storyteller and when he gets to the description of blowup itself, the book is gripping