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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unimaginable horror in the woods of Northern Minnesota, July 17, 2006
This review is from: Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm Of 1894 (Hardcover)
When the citizens of Hinckley, Minnesota arose on Saturday, September 1, 1894 it looked for all the world to be just another ordinary Saturday. Some folks had to work at the Brennan Lumber Mill. For others there was washing to do and provisions to be picked up in town. The children might well spend part of the day fishing or maybe picking cranberries in the nearby bogs. And as for the engineers on the St Paul and Duluth and Eastern Minnesota railroads, they simply had no idea of the calamity there were about to encounter in the towns of Pokegama, Sandstone and Hinckley later that day. "Under A Flaming Sky" is the gripping true story of the mammoth firestorm that engulfed these towns on that fateful Saturday. Author Daniel James Brown, a direct descendant of two of the Hinckley survivors, offers up an incredible book that captures all of the trauma, all of the heartbreak and the unspeakable pain and heroism that emerged on that day. It is a book you will find hard to put down.

Imagine suddenly being caught in a firestorm where temperatures reached 1600 degrees Fahrenheit. Now small brush and forest fires were quite common in these parts in those days so most folks had absolutely no warning about the debacle they were about to face. In "Under A Flaming Sky" Daniel James Brown focuses on a number of families and how they attempted to cope with an impending disaster. Some would manage to escape but many others were not so lucky. You will meet many ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Twenty five year old Tommy Dunn was a telegrapher working at the St. Paul and Duluth depot in Hinckley. Despite the impending disaster Dunn stayed on the job just trying to keep the lines of communication open for as long as he possibly could. Tragically, he would lose his life in the process. Read about the heroics of engineers James Root, Edward Barry and William Bennet Best and discover how they somehow managed to assist so many citizens in getting out of harms way. And finally, you will find out why the lessons that were learned from the Hinckley fire were instrumental in ushering in an era of better fire management all over America.

"Under A Flaming Sky" is an extraordinarily well written book. Daniel James Brown is a terrific storyteller who puts his readers right into the heart of this incredibly desperate situation. You'll discover the split second choices people were forced to make and the ultimate consequences of those choices. You will also learn about the unlikely confluence of atmospheric conditions that occured on that fateful day that would allow such a firestorm to come together in the first place. In so many ways it really was the "perfect storm". Highly recommended!
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get a glass of wine and sit a spell, May 30, 2006
By 
D @ Paradise Lake (Woodinville, WA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm Of 1894 (Hardcover)
I started reading this- a chapter each evening. About a third of the way through, I got hooked and read straight through to the end in one sitting. I don't normally come to Amazon to write reviews- but this story is worth the read. I enjoyed this more than Isaac's Storm by Eric Larson, which got a lot of press a few years back. If you liked Endurance or the Johnstown Flood, you'll love this book.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone interested in Americana..., May 15, 2006
This review is from: Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm Of 1894 (Hardcover)
I got this book last week and since I had to fly cross-country, I figured it would help me pass the time during my flight. Not only could I not put it down, but I my husband (who rarely reads) and I fought over it all weekend when he decided he wanted to read it too! I had to physically force myself to stop reading at 2:00 am early one morning because I had to get some sleep! Mr. Brown writes such compelling prose that, at times, it's easy to forget that this book is a work of non-fiction that this terrible fire swept through Minnesota, leaving destroyed towns and families in its wake. It's hard to comprehend trying to escape a fire of this magnitude, only to survive and discover that your family, house, land and everything you own is gone. Mr. Brown's minute by minute account of the Hinckley fire of 1894, interspersed with details regarding the evolution of the fire from a few burning embers to total firestorm, weather science, burn and infection treatments of the late 1800s, make this book both an engrossing and educational find.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, January 13, 2008
The Hinkley fire has been a passion of mine since I was 12 years old. I even dragged my grandma to Hinkley to see the mass graves and memorials. I devoured every bit of scrap of information I could on the subject. For years. We went to the Hinkley Fire Mesuem on my honeymoon!! This guy took all this things I have read, and then some, and put them in a story I can read and make total sense of! He did his research to the tee, inserting local histories and stories of the times, attitiudes, medical practices, and family histories, often taken directly from recorded histories given by the people who were there. And expanding on them with science, philsosphy, psychology.
I read this book in less then 24 hours, neglecting my family and house completly. It is wonderful, the most comprehensive book regarding the Hinkley Fire I have ever read. This book will be in my collection forever. I highly reccommend to anyone who has an interest in this history or the way of life in the late 1800's or human nature and compassion
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It could be your turn next, April 27, 2006
This review is from: Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm Of 1894 (Hardcover)
Most readers will not have heard of the little Minnesota town of Hinckley or of the horrific inferno that destroyed it on September 1, 1894, with a higher death toll than that of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Historically, the event was significant as perhaps the worst forest fire in American history, a "perfect fire" orchestrated by an unfortunate convergence of terrain, wind, atmospheric conditions, and a white pine forest. The result was a true "conflagration" (a moving fire storm) that in five hours overran most of a county and reached temperatures high enough to melt steel, leaving behind terrain that never again would sustain a real forest (the fire burned so hot that it consumed organic material in the soil down to a depth of ten or twelve feet, leaving a nearly sterile surface of sand and gravel).

The natural question to ask is why someone not a Minnesotan or a disaster junkie would want to read this book. There are several pressing reasons, from the lively storytelling to the especial pertinence of the Hinckley fire to modern readers who-thanks to events like United Flight 93 and Hurricane Katrina-are confronting the very real possibility of disaster striking their own lives.

"Under a Flaming Sky" has been meticulously researched to familiarize us with many of the people involved, then to give a minute-by-minute account of the disaster that enveloped them. We learn enough about the victims to care for them, then wait to see who will survive and who not, hoping for a reprieve or at least a postponement of the inevitable. In fact, wait until you find the identify of Brown's great-grandfather, who perished in the fire. If that doesn't leave a lump in your throat, you are the kind of person who is mean to puppies.

And the novel is not only a chronicle of disaster. There are heroes aplenty, from an engineer who ferrets hundreds to safety on a flaming train to a black porter who helps calm terrified white passengers to those who put personal safety second to that of family and neighbors.

In sum, this is both an entertaining and a informative read. As well as experiencing a story that unfolds like a detective novel, you will learn about forest fires and fire storms, the origins of the National Weather Service, the history of American forestation, what happens on and in the bodies of burn victims, the pathetically inadequate nature of burn treatment in the late 19th century, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and so on-all the information you need to appreciate the significance of what is unfolding, but presented economically and unobtrusively. Brown does not feel obliged to crowd his story with every nugget of information that he has turned up, a common failing of this type of writing. First and foremost he is a gripping storyteller (I read it in two sittings).

"Under a Flaming Sky" deserves comparison with "Young Men and Fire" by Norman Maclean (better known for "A River Runs Through It").
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read - beautifully written, amazing story, October 9, 2006
By 
lizziekitty (Newburyport, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm Of 1894 (Hardcover)
I have read quite a few fire history books now, and the one complaint I often have is that the writing is mediocre compared to the story it tells. Not so here. This is an extraodinarily well written book -- poignant and moving without being heavy-handed, and it intersperses the story with facts about weather, wildland fire, death by fire, and burn treatment very well.

The only thing I wish the author had told us more about was the aftermath -- he alludes to the fact that many more people would die from their injuries, but never tells us much about how many do, or when... Perhaps that information is not readily available, though. Either way, the lack of this information in no way takes away from the book.

Bottom line: I absolutely could not put this book down, and I am glad to have learned a little history that not many people know -- and to have remembered the victims of this firestorm in the process.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting story., April 27, 2006
By 
This review is from: Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm Of 1894 (Hardcover)
I picked up this book not knowing exactly what to expect, and discovered a richly told story about a late-19th-century fire in Minnesota - and it is riveting. One of the things that make this such a rewarding book to read is the pop science seamlessly woven throughout - how fire works, how the sky over a forest fire can literally explode, how people burn to death, and much more. I loved it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flaming Skies, Heroes and Victims, June 14, 2008
By 
Winslow Bunny "Winslow_Bunny" (Rockledge, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
"Under A Flaming Sky," by Daniel James Brown, is an intense, enthralling book detailing the events of the 1894 Hinckley firestorm. The event itself has been buried in our national memory, part of the great fires that happened at the end of the 19th century, like Peshtigo and others, unlike those of Chicago and major cities. Occasionally it is brought up at its anniversary in Minnesota by the local media. As Brown points out, though, the same kind of horrific incident that happened at Hinckley can still happen today.

Brown builds the chronicle of events from the night before the fire, augmenting it with conditions that built the firestorm, through the day of the fire and the events afterward. In the book, many characters are introduced - it was a bit confusing sometimes to trace who was with which family - but in being caught up with this tragedy and people, one would wonder who would survive, how they would survive, who would not and how they would die. The human interest stories that Brown creates an almost fiction-like story - but you know that it is a true story, and you want to know how it ends.

There are also three parts of the book where the story is interrupted, something that may seem to be an annoyance in most books, but extremely useful in this book. The first takes several pages to explain fires and the creation of firestorms, where conditions build swirling winds that may reach hurricane strength, heat the melts steel and throws fire and gases to instantly burn oxygen and set fire to things miles away. Another impressive detour has to do with burns and their effects on humans: how the body has difficulty dealing with burns, in fighting infections, the process of fighting bacteria, and more. Add to this the perspective of the technology of the times, and one gets further insight to the evolving disaster. Brown has written an excellent book on an American tragedy, and done it in engrossing style.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breathless Minute-By-Minute Account of The Perfect Fire, February 4, 2014
This is a terrific book.

I got “Under a Flaming Sky” after finishing Daniel James Brown’s great book “The Boys in the Boat,” which was one of the best books I read last year. “Under a Flaming Sky” tells the amazing true story of the September 1, 1894 Hinckley Minnesota firestorm, the “perfect fire” so to speak.

In the middle of an exceptionally hot and dry summer in Minnesota, before weather satellites and reliable weather forecasting, local forest fires were a common occurrence. Smoke was noticeable off and on for most of the summer in rural Minnesota, and most people paid little notice. Hinckley was in an area of heavy logging, an industry at the time that simply stripped the logs where they fell and left unwanted branches abandoned on the ground without any cleanup. The branches dried and eventually became perfect tinder for forest fires for hundreds of miles around. The right wind and weather conditions including drought and a temperature inversion came together that day to merge two local fires into a behemoth firestorm which trapped the residents of Hinckley and the nearby settlements of Sandstone, Mission Creek and Brook Park with frightening speed.

Author Daniel James Brown takes us on a breathless minute by minute account of the drama, following the harrowing personal stories of many of the town’s residents who were there, including Brown’s own grandfather, a boy at the time who was the son of hard working Norwegian immigrants. We follow the heroic train crews of the Eastern Minnesota and the St. Paul and Duluth railroads as they brave heavy smoke, burning trestles, and flaming railroad coaches to carry hundreds to safety. Giant burning gas bubbles and tornadoes of flame drive some to hide in their storm cellars, some to jump into wells, rivers, and ponds, and some simply to try to outrun the flames on foot. Still, it is estimated that between 400 and 800 people died in the sweeping inferno, which consumed over 400 square miles in 4 hours.

Brown’s meticulous attention to accuracy and detail extends to the fascinating lives of the survivors after the tragedy. One aftermath of the fire and other subsequent forest fires (including The Peshtigo Fire of 1871 and The Baudette Fire of 1910) was a grudging acceptance by the logging industry of forestry management practices which not only helped minimize the risk of forest fires from the logging debris left on the ground, but which also helped spread the idea of replanting logged areas to maintain the sustainability of the trees.

“Under a Flaming Sky” is a very well researched and written account of an American tragedy that many more people should know about. The extremely talented author Daniel James Brown makes history come alive once again.

Interesting side note: it is believed that Thomas “Boston” Corbett, the Union soldier who killed John Wilkes Booth after Booth’s assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, died in the fire as well. He was last known to be living in a forest settlement near Hinckley at the time.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT A BOOK!!!!, September 9, 2006
By 
a life long reader (Litchfield, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm Of 1894 (Hardcover)
My grandfather was a railroad engineer in southern Minnesota; he often talked about the railroad's role in this fire. I knew at a very young age that the one train was driven backwards to save people of the town. My aunt, who is almost 90, remembers going "north" on the train to pick blueberries as a very small child. She said even many years after the fire there were burned out stumps in clearings. As a young girl, everytime they went through the area everyone talked about the fire.

I could not put down the book; it was well written and kept my interest throughout. The author took time to explain many aspects of fires, human nature, health issues, and the social climate of the late 1800's.

This is a wonderful book for young adults and adults. It was not offensive in any way and even sensitive subjects were handled well.
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Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm Of 1894
Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm Of 1894 by Daniel James Brown (Hardcover - May 1, 2006)
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