Inspired by Timothy Egan’s best-selling book, The Big Burn is the dramatic story of an unimaginable 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 the rest of the 20th century and beyond. 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.


“The Big Burn” covered a time that I wasn’t aware happened. Sadly, my depth of knowledge on the American Northwest tends to stick to comics, film and TV. If it’s not a documentary about Temple of the Dog or “Singles”, I’ve got no idea what’s going on up there. The documentary focuses on how this day and a half long forest fire was what helped to define the U.S. Forest Service. They are a brave bunch that never gets the funding they deserve, even though they cover a wider beat than any cop.

Forest fires always freak me out. I hate seeing innocent animals die and my research on the matter shows that the odds of surviving one is never quite that great. The odds are getting better with each decade, but that’s because fire policy has changed throughout this nation. It sucks that we had to lose so much of the Northern Rockies to prove to the country that fire protection is necessary.

The DVD comes with no special features. The A/V Quality is on par for most recent standard definition PBS releases. The transfer isn’t amazing, but it works. The same goes for the Dolby 2.0 audio track. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase.

RELEASE DATE: 02/03/2015

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