In this book Egan brings to life the largest-ever forest fire in America and the tragedy that cemented Teddy Roosevelt's legacy in the land, and tells an epic story that paints a moving portrait of the people who lived it, and offers a critical cautionary tale for our time.
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... read more
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 ten thousand 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.
“Give me enough Swedes and whiskey and I will build a railroad through hell.”James Hill
'rights of the public to the national resources outweigh private rights.'Highlighted by 59 Kindle customers
Man in the Arena speech. Better for a man to fail, he said, even 'to fail greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.'Highlighted by 55 Kindle customers
'The forest reserves should be set apart forever for the use and benefit of our people as a whole and not sacrificed to the shortsighted greed of a few,'Highlighted by 53 Kindle customers
'The earth, I repeat, belongs of right to all its people, and not to a minority, insignificant in numbers but tremendous in wealth and power.'Highlighted by 48 Kindle customers
To ensure that people in 2010 would have a country of clean water, healthy forests, and open land would require battle with certain groups, namely 'the alliance between business and politics.' It was, he said, 'the snake that we must kill.'Highlighted by 48 Kindle customers
'It is high time to realize that our responsibility to the coming millions is like that of parents to their children, and that in wasting our resources we are wronging our children.'Highlighted by 42 Kindle customers
Muir saw wilderness as a tonic for a frenzied era, a place to escape the 'stupefying effects of the vice of over-industry and the deadly apathy of luxury,' as he wrote in an influential book. 'Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.'Highlighted by 39 Kindle customers
The Italians had a saying: 'I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things. First, the streets weren't paved with gold. Second, they weren't paved at all. And third, I was expected to pave them.'Highlighted by 36 Kindle customers
'There is nothing more practical in the end than the preservation of beauty,' he said in an address at Stanford. 'I feel most emphatically that we should not turn into shingles a tree which was old when the first Egyptian conquerors penetrated to the valley of the Euphrates.'Highlighted by 22 Kindle customers
Ideas take on their own trajectory, but they die without people to carry them into the corridors of power. Following his words with action, Roosevelt created the nation's first wildlife refuge, Pelican Island in Florida.Highlighted by 22 Kindle customers
Prologue: A fire at the end of the world
Part 1: In on the creation
1. "A peculiar intimacy"
2. Roost of the robber barons
3. The great crusade
4. Deadwood days
Part 2: What they lost
6. Summer of smoke
7. Men, men, men!
8. Spaghetti westerners
9. Firestorm's eve
11. The lost day
12. The lost night
13. Towns afire
14. To save a town
15. The missing
16. The living and the dead
Part 3: What they saved
17. Fallout 239
18. One for the boys
Notes on sources
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