Tag Archives: U.S. Forest Service

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America – A Book Review by Bill Dahl

FIVE STAR REVIEW – With smoke from wildfires inundating the summer in the American West (again – 2017), this work is both timely and a historical treasure. In the late summer of 2017, with some 2 million acres currently in flames – it is difficult to wrap your head around the magnitude of the 1910 Big Burn that converged to torch a total of 3.2 million acres in the American West.

Nobody can weave history and story like Timothy Egan. PERIOD!

If you want to understand the genesis of the conservation movement in the U.S., the destructive capacity of wildfire, the history of the largest wildfire in U.S. history (3.2 million acres torched in 1910), the founding of the U.S. Forest Service, the conflict between business interests that those responsible for preserving public lands, the role of Gifford Pinchot and the leadership of Teddy Roosevelt – this book is for you.

This book is also about human behavior in the midst of impending disaster – both unsung heroes and the villains. The description of the dynamics of firestorm, what people did to save themselves and attempt to save their homes and villages, and the aftermath of this tragedy – this book is for you.

You cannot put this book down after you begin. Nobody but nobody can effectively treat a tragedy like this – in all its dimensions – except Timothy Egan.

There is so much in this book (set in 1910) that remains pertinent today: Funding for the U.S. Forest Service, wildfire prevention, conservation, environmentalism, management and suppression, politics, and the ongoing war of ideas.

Yet, it is Egan’s ability to bring to life the people who experienced this unimaginable, life altering and life ending episode that truly made this work magnificent – and resonate so profoundly with the reader.

After having visited Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and Grand Teton this summer, I cannot help but wonder, as one recent article asked: “Are we loving our National Parks to death?”

Egan’s treatment of the nuances and multi-dimensional facets of this story is simply spellbinding.

Just one of the BEST books I have EVER Devoured.

5 Star Review. PERIOD!