Wed February 17, 2010
TR, the United States Forest Service, and "the Fire that Saved America"
By Rich Fisher
Tulsa, Oklahoma – On today's StudioTulsa, we hear from the celebrated journalist and author Timothy Egan, who first came on our show a few years ago to discuss his then-bestselling book, "The Worst Hard Time" (which won the National Book Award --- and which memorably profiled those who "stayed behind" during the Dust Bowl). Now, Egan revisits our program to talk about his new book, "The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America." As one reviewer in the pages of Publishers Weekly has noted of this work: "[Egan] spins a tremendous tale of Progressive-era America out of the 1910 blaze that burned across Montana, Idaho, and Washington and put the fledgling U.S. Forest Service through a veritable trial by fire. Under-funded, understaffed, unsupported by Congress and President Taft and challenged by the robber barons that Taft's predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, had worked so hard to oppose, the Forest Service was caught unprepared for the immense challenge. Egan shuttles back and forth between the national stage of politics and the conflicting visions of the nation's future, and the personal stories of the men and women who fought and died in the fire: rangers, soldiers, immigrant miners imported from all over the country to help the firefighting effort, prostitutes, railroad engineers, and dozens others whose stories are painstakingly recreated from scraps of letters, newspaper articles, firsthand testimony, and Forest Service records. Egan brings a touching humanity to this story of valor and cowardice in the face of a national catastrophe, paying respectful attention to Roosevelt's great dream of conservation and of an America 'for the little man.'"