Last month, after I posted about finishing my last book I cast about for recommendations for my next read.
The next day when I arrived at work I found The Big Burn by Timothy Egan lying on my desk. My colleague Bill had dropped it off. I read a few pages and I was hooked.
The Big Burn chronicles the largest recorded wildfire in US history. It coincided with the arrival of the first US Forest Rangers in the west and the fire was a defining moment for the agency that forever changed their stewardship of our public lands.
As it turns out this month is also the 100th anniversary of the fire that claimed 86 lives and consumed over three million acres of virgin timberland. The story of the fire and the people who fought it is also the story of the America. It includes the heroics of first generation Americans from Europe and a platoon of Buffalo Soldiers from Spokane.
“On August 20, 2005, a day when the sun baked the Bitterroots with not much of a breeze to break the heat, top brass from the Forest Service assembled along Placer Creek, less than a mile from Wallace, Idaho. They came to northern Rockies to remember that other August 20 nearly a century before. An honor guard in crisp green uniforms and while gloves marched in single file along the road to the creek. They carried flags and blew bagpipes, the sound filling the forest and the steep slopes of the mountains. They also carried Pulaskis, shiny and chrome plated, holding them across their chests like riflemen clutching their weapons.”
All in all an excellent read. May I have another?
Columbia in Review
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