Tim Egan author of 'The Big Burn' says effects still being felt

Sep 19, 2011

The author of the 2009 bestseller, “The Big Burn,” says the famous 1910 fire that scored millions of acres in the Northwest still holds relevance for us today.

There weren’t always public lands in America, and there was a time when the Forest Service was on the chopping block in Congress. The future of both was impacted by the famous 1910 fire in north Idaho, western Montana, and eastern Washington.

That, according to the author Tim Egan, whose 2009 book “The Big Burn,” chronicled the history of the fire, one of the largest wildfire in U.S. history. The August 1910 blaze in about two days torched five towns, killed almost 90 people, and burned about three million acres.

Egan says the failed battle against the fire impacted firefighting policies for most of the next century:

“It gave birth to this idea that they could beat fires, and so thereafter they vowed to stop every fire."

He also says the fire was at the center of the debate preserving the National Forest Service at a time when the Service was being targeted by federal lawmakers. Egan spoke at the University of Idaho on Monday.

Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Radio