Big Burn: American Experience
(Rochester, NY) - Inspired by Timothy Egan’s best-selling book, The Big Burn is the dramatic story of the massive wildfire that swept across the Northern Rockies in the summer of 1910. The fire devoured more than three million acres in 36 hours, confronting the fledgling U.S. Forest Service with a catastrophe that would define the agency and the nation’s fire policy for much of the 20th century. As America tries to manage its fire-prone landscapes in the 21st century, The Big Burn provides a cautionary tale of heroism and sacrifice, arrogance and greed, hubris and, ultimately, humility, in the face of nature’s frightening power. Written and directed by Stephen Ives, The Big Burn, an American Experience presentation, premieres on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.
By the time it was all over, more than three million acres had burned and at least 78 firefighters were dead. It was the largest fire in American history, and it assured the future of the still-new United States Forest Service.
The fire reinforced the value of land protected for the common good, but it also had profoundly tragic ramifications. Rather than prompting debate about fire protection, the fire squelched all discussion. It ended the tussle between those who thought every fire should be fought promptly and aggressively and those who believed that fire suppression was not always the best way to protect the wilderness. It set the Forest Service and conservationists on a century-long journey away from controlled burning that would, in the end, harm the ecology of the wilderness it was intended to protect.
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