‘UCSB Reads’ Events Study Wildfires, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Big Burn


As reported in a campus and community article in the January 23, 2014 edition of UCSB’s official news site, The Current, winter quarter book discussions, faculty panels, and featured speakers will culminate in a talk by author Timothy Egan:

“UCSB Reads continues through winter quarter with a series of events that includes book discussions, faculty panels, and featured speakers at UC Santa Barbara and at public libraries in Santa Barbara and Montecito. An annual event, UCSB Reads engages the campus and the Santa Barbara community in discussions about a key topic, while reading the same book. This year’s selection is “The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire That Saved America,” by Timothy Egan.

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, Sarah Anderson, Andrew Plantinga, and Naomi Tague, faculty members at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, will participate in a panel discussion introducing the Strategic Environmental Research Initiative (SERI), which brings together an interdisciplinary team of scientists in pursuit of new strategies for managing large-scale environmental challenges, including the impact of climate change on wildfires. The panel begins at 4 p.m. in the UCSB Library’s Mary Cheadle Room.

On Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 6 p.m., UCSB faculty members Peter Alagona, Karen Lunsford, and Dar Roberts will participate in a panel discussion at the Montecito Library, 1469 E. Valley Road. Alagona is an associate professor in the history, geography, and environmental studies departments; Lunsford is an associate professor with the Writing Program; and Roberts is a professor in the Department of Geography.

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, artist Ethan Turpin will give a talk about his exhibition, “Burn Cycle,” which was commissioned by the UCSB Library and the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management in conjunction with UCSB Reads and will be on display in the library lobby from Feb. 8 through May 30. Turpin’s talk begins at 6 p.m. in the Mary Cheadle Room.

On Thursday, Feb.20, at 6 p.m., UCSB faculty and staff members from multiple disciplines will discuss the UCSB Reads selection at the Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 E. Anapamu St. Panelists include Jonathan Cook, associate director of physical facilities; Elizabeth Heckendorn Cook, associate professor of English; and John Majewski, professor of history.

On Wednesday, Feb. 26, journalist Ray Ford will speak on “History of Fire in Santa Barbara: Perceptions and Misconceptions.” His talk begins at 4 p.m. in the Mary Cheadle Room.

The UCSB Reads events will culminate in a talk by “The Big Burn” author Timothy Egan at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4, in Campbell Hall, and the first ever UCSB Reads online author chat Wednesday, March 5 at noon. The online chat gives alumni, parents, and other friends of UCSB who can’t travel to campus an opportunity to participate in the program.

In addition, KCSB-FM will be broadcasting excerpts from the book, read by campus and community volunteers, on weekdays from noon to 12:30 p.m. More information about UCSB Reads, including a complete schedule of events, is available at . Questions can be directed to Rebecca Metzger at metzger@library.ucsb.edu or (805) 893-2674.

Previous UCSB Reads Books include:

  • 2013: Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer
  • 2012: Moby Duck by Donovan Hahn
  • 2011: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • 2010: Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario
  • 2009: Ethics for the New Millenium by Dalai Lama
  • 2008: The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli
  • 2007: Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert

On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno. Forest rangers had assembled nearly ten thousand men—college boys, day workers, immigrants from mining camps—to fight the fire. But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers nor anyone else knew how to subdue them.

Egan narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force. Equally dramatic is the larger story he tells of outsized president Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pioneering the notion of conservation, Roosevelt and Pinchot did nothing less than create the idea of public land as our national treasure, owned by and preserved for every citizen” (Amazon.com plug for the book).
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Cover of “The Big Burn.” The UCSB Reads events will culminate in a talk by author Timothy Egan at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4, in Campbell Hall, and the first ever UCSB Reads online author chat Wednesday, March 5 at noon.

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Video footage from a residential street on fire. Tea Fire, 2008; by Bruce James. Part of Ethan Turpin’s “Burn Cycle” exhibition in the Davidson Library

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“Moving over a ‘point cloud’ and photo composite, LiDAR remote sensing gives a view of a neighborhood in Mission Canyon burned during the 2009 Jesusita Fire. Animation provided by Bodo Bookhagen and John Potapenko, UCSB Geography. Ibid.

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Meteorological simulations show the directions and speed intensity of sundowner winds during the 2009 Jesusita Fire, which blew flames down the Santa Ynez Mountains into residential areas. Animation provided by Charles Jones, UCSB Geography. Ibid.

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Remains of a child’s bike after a local fire. Ibid.; photo by Bill Norrington

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Fused metal, glass, and pottery – a poignant souvenir. Ibid.

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Remains of a typewriter after a local fire. Ibid.