Cover image for John Blair and the great Hinckley fire
John Blair and the great Hinckley fire
Nobisso, Josephine.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 cm
Tells how a brave African American porter helped save many lives when the train on which he was working was caught up in the horrendous firestorm near Hinkley, Minnesota, in 1894.
Reading Level:
860 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 5.4 0.5 46142.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.8 3 Quiz: 28719 Guided reading level: S.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F614.H6 N63 2000 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



No one who boarded the Limited No. 4 train on the morning of September 1, 1894, anticipated disaster down the tracks, but by three o'clock in the afternoon, the sky was as black as night and everyone knew something was wrong. Soon burning trees lined either side of the tracks, illuminating the smoky sky like gigantic torches. With fire ahead and fire behind, how would the passengers escape?
Amid the flames of the most devastating firestorm in U.S. history, the train's porter, John Wesley Blair, acted with courage and compassion throughout that terrible day. Here, finally, is the untold story of a hero whom history almost forgot.
A brief mention of the Hinckley fire in a nature magazine inspired Joi Nobisso to find out more about this awesome event. After several years of research, she uncovered the tale of John Blair's bravery and knew she had to tell his story.

Reviews 1

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-4-John Blair, an African-American railway porter, was a hero during the 1894 disaster that killed more than 400 people living in the remote Minnesota backwoods. Here, Nobisso describes the phenomenon of a firestorm that moved so explosively that settlers escaped their woodland homes to embark on the train, thus doubling its load. Despite the unbearable heat, Blair kept comforting passengers and sprayed water on them. He finally led them off the train into the safety of a swamp. An epilogue explains how the Great Hinckley Fire gave rise to the forest-fire monitoring program in the United States and that John Blair was later recognized for his valor. The descriptive language conveys the seriousness of the situation and reads well aloud. The watercolor illustrations are mostly double-page spreads featuring lots of smoky gray and hot-orange backgrounds and impressionistic renderings of the suffering, terrified people. The format is large for group sharing and the story would tie in well with studies of Midwest settlement, forests, fires, railroads, and notable African Americans.-Jean Gaffney, Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library, Miamisburg, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.