cover image Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894

Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894

Daniel James Brown, . . Lyons, $22.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-59228-863-2

On September 1, 1894, Hinckley, Minn.—a thriving town with a population of more than 1,200, two railroads, a successful lumber mill and five hotels—was ravaged by a firestorm that grew out of a catastrophic convergence of two ordinary fires, high winds, hot weather and white pine forest. Brown, a textbook writer, gives a human face to natural calamity as he draws on firsthand survivor stories, such as those of his grandfather, who at nine was rescued from the disaster that killed his father, a Norwegian immigrant. A wide range of characters evoke the reader's pity and respect in these well-researched and highly readable pages. A black porter selflessly saves white passengers on a train engulfed in flames; a quick-thinking clergyman plunges into a river with a stranger's baby in his arms; and a survivor is haunted by the death screams of 127 of his neighbors in a swamp. With its pine forests obliterated in the firestorm that claimed more than 436 lives, Hinckley became a specter of its former self. Illustrated with period pictures, this deft slice of regional history will attract disaster and weather buffs as well as fans of Norman Maclean's standout Young Men and Fire . (May)