Cover image for The Big Burn
The Big Burn
Ingold, Jeanette.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Diego : Harcourt, [2002]

Physical Description:
295 pages, 1 map ; 22 cm
Three teenagers battle the flames of the Big Burn of 1910, one of the century's biggest wildfires.
Reading Level:
860 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 9.0 59174.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.4 14 Quiz: 31664 Guided reading level: Y.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

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Jarrett is sixteen--old enough to reject the railroad job his father wants him to take, old enough to court Lizbeth Whitcomb, old enough to join the fight against the forest fires that are destroying Idaho and Montana. But the fires are worse than anyone dreamed, and soon the flames have has come between Jarrett and everything he holds dear, between Jarrett and Lizbeth, and thrown him into the company of a young black private named Seth, whose own plans to desert the army have been cut short by the disaster.
A about the biggest wildfire of the century--the big blow-up of 1910-- The Big Burn is a portrait of a time, a place, and an event that changed the way we fight wildfires, altered the landscape of Idaho and Montana, and transformed forever the lives of the people at the front lines.

Author Notes

JEANETTE INGOLD is the author of several acclaimed novels . She lives and writes in Montana.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-9. According to the afterword, the fire that engulfed the Northwest in 1910 is still known as the Big Burn. This historical novel, set in northern Idaho, introduces several characters whose lives intersect at various points as the mountains burn. Seth Brown is an African American private in the Twenty-fifth Infantry, sent in from Washington State to help fight fires. Sixteen-year-old Jarrett Logan, just laid off from working on the railroad, leaves home to join the Forest Service and finds not only a job but his estranged older brother, Samuel, an experienced ranger. Celia and her Aunt Lizbeth struggle to make a go of their timberland homestead. Ingold's shifting between sets of characters broadens the scope of the novel but sometimes slows down the action. Still, the momentum gradually builds, and tension heightens as the characters' realizations about a major fire slowly change from a dreaded possibility to a real threat to an unavoidable horror. A solid adventure story with a well-realized setting. Carolyn Phelan.

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Against the backdrop of beauty and devastation, each of three teens battles the momentum of a wildfire, `the big burn,' that scorched millions of acres across Idaho and Montana in 1910," wrote PW. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-This exciting survival/adventure story is told ensemble-style. Bumbling Private Seth Brown of the all-black 25th infantry wonders if the Army will be as good to him as it was to his father. Lizbeth, 16, wants to stay on the homestead claimed by her 26-year-old aunt Celia, but Celia can't wait to return East. Jarrett Logan, 16, tossed out on his own by his gruff and demanding father, finds that being reunited with his older brother, a forest ranger, isn't much smoother. These threads become plausibly entwined as each short chapter gradually builds toward the climactic "perfect storm" of forest fires that raged in Idaho and surrounding states during the summer of 1910 and is known as the Big Burn. The author's frequent foreshadowing seems heavy-handed. Periodic "Field Notes" give authorial voice to background material that, while relevant, is clearly shown in the plot. Stereotyping the bad guy as having a scar and a crossed eye seems unnecessary. Excellent period vocabulary may send some readers to the dictionary. The round-robin plot construction keeps the pace moving effectively through the climactic scenes and the mostly predictable, satisfying resolutions that follow. An afterword notes that evidence of this fire remains visible today. The "Sources and Suggestions for Further Reading" section is excellent, subdivided by subject and including books, newspapers, and Internet resources.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



FIELD NOTESA fair day followed a night brightened by dry lightning streaking to earth. Ranger William Morris set out from Coeur d'Alene Forest headquarters in Wallace, Idaho, to accompany a university professor on an expedition to look at mountain vegetation. They headed south along Placer Creek and then angled off to climb Striped Peak. A stiff wind kept them comfortable as the day heated up.The Coeur d'Alene National Forest stretched out around them, a million and a half acres of pine and Douglas fir, of tamarack and hemlock and cedar. Needled treetops locked together to line canyon bottoms and cover furrowed slopes in unbroken sheets of green. In the distance, where jagged, bare peaks rose from layered tiers of rough mountains, the green turned to hazy blue.They were eating lunch atop the sixty-three-hundred-foot summit when Morris noticed smoke in the southwest. He took a compass bearing and went back to his meal. But then a second, quickly ballooning smoke appeared in the southeast and was soon followed by the wispy track of a third fire.He plotted their locations on his map, and then he and the professor returned to Wallace to report them.The next time Morris climbed Striped Peak, he would find that all the land's greenness was gone, replaced by a blackened tangle of burned trees. He would write that they reminded him of jackstraws more than anything else.Washington StateJuly 13, MorningPrivate Seth Brown, seventeen, of the all-black Twenty-fifth Infantry (except for the white officers) slid the bayonet blade onto his rifle and jammed its keyhole fitting into place. Everyone else in the squad was long done cleaning up from the morning's training and preparing for the afternoon's, but Seth-his fingers fumbling through still unfamiliar tasks-was keeping them all from going to lunch."Hey, Junior!" one of the men said. "You break that U.S.A. government property, and you'll be buying it out of your pay.""Shut up," another said. "You want to slow him down more?"Seth bent over his last task, which was to fit the required gear onto his belt for the afternoon march. He hurried as best he could, but trying to remember how to attach it all....And his canteen! How could he have forgotten to fill it? Even if he didn't need the water, Sarge would notice the canteen swinging empty and get on him about that.A hand held out a filled one, and Seth looked up to see the new guy on the squad. Abel, that was his name."I got here with an extra," Abel said, shrugging to make light of his help."Thanks," Seth told him. "I owe you.""I'll collect," the other said with a smile.Seth had seen how fast Abel had got all his own gear squared away, arriving less than an hour earlier and already fitting in. He was the kind of soldier Seth wanted to be, only the harder Seth tried, the more he seemed to mess up. Seth had thought that maybe when his company left its garrison outside of Spokane, he'd get a chance to show how he could at least stick to a hard job Excerpted from The Big Burn by Jeanette Ingold All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.