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Under A Flaming Sky

2006 non-fiction book by Daniel James Brown

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Unimaginable horror in the woods of Northern Minnesota.

  • Aug 1, 2010
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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:  The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894" 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".   Very highly recommended!

Unimaginable horror in the woods of Northern Minnesota. Unimaginable horror in the woods of Northern Minnesota.

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August 15, 2010
Hinckley exists today, as possibly the most archetypical small Midwestern town, almost the perfect Lake Wobegon. After your review, I sat and recalled my passages through Hinckley and decided I's have to read this book.
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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About this book


On September 1, 1894 two forest fires converged on the town of Hinckley, Minnesota, trapping over two thousand people. Daniel James Brown recounts the events surrounding the fire in Under a Flaming Sky, the most gripping and comprehensive chronicle of how the dramatic story unfolded. Whereas Oregon�s famous �Biscuit� fire in 2002 took more than a week to burn its first 350,000 acres, the Hinckley fire did the same amount of damage in only five hours. The fire created its own weather, including hurricane-strength winds, bubbles of plasma-like 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, knocking down buildings and carrying flaming debris high 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. Both trains ran the gauntlet of fire. One train caught on fire from one end to t he other. A 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 out of town until the last possible minute of escape. In all, more than four hundred people died, leading to a revolution in forestry management practices and the birth of federal agencies that monitor and fight wildfires today.

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Books, Nonfiction, History, Minnesota, Fires, Turn Of The Century, Foresty


ISBN-10: 1592288634
ISBN-13: 978-1592288632
Author: Daniel James Brown
Genre: History, Turn of the Century, Minnesota
Publisher: The Lyons Press
Date Published: May 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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