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Summary

On September 1, 1894, two forest fires converged on the town of Hinckley, Minnesota, trapping over 2,000 people. Daniel J. Brown recounts the events surrounding the fire in the first and only book to chronicle the dramatic story that unfolded.

On September 1, 1894, two forest fires converged on the town of Hinckley, Minnesota, trapping over 2,000 people. Daniel J. Brown recounts the events surrounding the fire in the first and only book to chronicle the dramatic story that unfolded.

Whereas Oregon's famous "Biscuit" fire in 2002 burned 350,000 acres in one week, the Hinckley fire did the same damage in five hours. The fire created its own weather, including hurricane-strength winds, bubbles of plasmalike glowing gas, and 200-foot-tall flames. In some instances "fire whirls", or tornadoes of fire, danced out from the main body of the fire to knock down buildings and carry flaming debris into the sky. Temperatures reached 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit - the melting point of steel.

As the fire surrounded the town, two railroads became the only means of escape. Two trains ran the gauntlet of fire. One train caught on fire from one end to the other. The heroic young African American porter ran up and down the length of the train, reassuring the passengers even as the flames tore at their clothes. On the other train, the engineer refused to back his locomotive out of town until the last possible minute of escape. In all, more than 400 people died, leading to a revolution in forestry management practices and federal agencies that monitor and fight wildfires today.

Author Daniel Brown has woven together numerous survivors' stories, historical sources, and interviews with forest fire experts in a gripping narrative that tells the fascinating story of one of North America's most devastating fires and how it changed the nation.

©2016 Daniel Brown (P)2016 Penguin Audio

What listeners say about Under a Flaming Sky

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Chills!

I stumbled across this book by accident, having never heard of this historical event. The fire destroyed 810 km2 in 4 hours and the temperatures reached 2,000 °F / 1,100 °C.

I listened to this book as I walked around the city I work in, picturing the fires which rose as tall as skyscrapers. Fascinating book, with a great introduction by the author explaining his personal connection to the fire.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-07-16

Well researched

Ugh, such a sad heartwrenching story. I cried during parts of this. The author does such a great job of explaining hour by hour what happened to this community. He explains the science of fire and how it kills in more ways than one. He leads you through the the horrific last moments of so many. I literally checked the fire alarms in my house afyer this book.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Lynn Fraser
  • 18-10-18

History lovers dream book.

As someone that loves history and largely forgotten stories this book is a gem.
Worried the subject was too depressing to read I finally gave into reading yet another book by this great author. I will be forever grateful for that choice.
The story, though sad, is of greed, negligence, heroism, ingenuity, resourcefulness, strength and kindness. A story that will forever echo in your memory.
You will not regret the purchase of the book. I listen straight through will only breaks to the answer phone. Yep, it’s that good.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Jim Romrell
  • 09-02-19

Good, but not Boys on the Boat

I bought this book because I loved Boys on the Boat and hoped this would be as good. It wasn’t, but it was still a very good, if sad and somewhat graphic. Certainly, it was very well researched, written, and narrated. The problem is that the story lacked the inspirational themes found in Brown’s other story.

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  • tnb
  • 09-12-19

Interesting but parts are gruesome

The story is very well researched. Very little character development. Basically it is a collection of facts, timetables,and people’s name who were involved in the fire. The discussion of how people die from fire and the medical effects can be skipped.

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  • Patricia A. Martens
  • 08-05-18

Great but sad tale

I loved the story though I thought the writing tended to be a little overly descriptive at times. The author did a great job on researching the story which made it more like hearing the event from someone who was there first hand. I thought the narrator was good but a little monotone so he sounded more like someone reading a book than telling a story. I would recommend the book as it definitely kept my interest throughout.

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  • David
  • 29-03-18

Worth it

Any additional comments?

Different enough and an interesting historical snap shot of the region and era and that made the listen worth while. A little preachy at times which was distracting and way too repetitious. The 30 second forward button on the app improved the last third of the book. Overall, a good purchase.

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  • Adventure Dan
  • 28-08-17

Almost too much drama.

Daniel James Brown is just a terrific author. His research of the historical and scientific details make his books fascinating.

In this book, the details are so tragic, so heartbreaking, that for me, the story was at times a little difficult to read. I really enjoyed the epilogue. Learning a little of the author's journey and his relationship to that tragic event lent a deeper appreciation for the story.

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  • Michael Evert
  • 04-05-17

After fire started, I couldn't stop listening

A bit slow at the beginning but once fire started, pace was relentless. Narrator's voice was pleasant and he had appropriate pauses between scene shifts.

The author did his research well provided rich scientific and historical details.

I know Minnesota had a greater and more tragic fire around Cloquet some years later. This was touched on only briefly. I wish there was some discussion about why the Hinckley fire is the more famous.

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  • coffeedave
  • 20-11-20

A Good First Book for an Author

The story of this book is really about a page long that is made to go on for hours. It's true. It's unimaginably tragic. But, it's to much the same thing over and over. The author's book on the Donnor Party tragedy is much better and Boys in the Boat is second to none. Read those, not this.

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  • David
  • 09-11-16

Highly recommended

A remarkable expostion and one of the best I have heard. This work is especially interesting because it is not dependent on any single story but includes family, friends and communities that we can easily identify with.

1 person found this helpful