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The Great Spokane Falls Fire of 1889: Background information when reading Fire Season

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Fire Season

A Novel

by Leyna Krow

Fire Season by Leyna Krow X
Fire Season by Leyna Krow
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2022, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Jul 2023, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer Hon Khalaf
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About this Book

The Great Spokane Falls Fire of 1889

This article relates to Fire Season

Print Review

Black and white photo of burned buildings and debris after Spokane Falls FireFire Season is set in the late 1880s and features a historical backdrop of immense changes — both metaphorical and literal — in Spokane Falls, Washington. It was a time when Washington was seeking statehood and the legitimacy that came along with this designation, and the Great Spokane Falls Fire could have put the territory's future in jeopardy. This dramatic scenery in which a community seeks both validity and rebirth sets the stage for the novel, as the main characters also undergo searches for a similar sense of security in their identities and become born again in different ways.

Washington had been a territory for 36 years before it became the 42nd state on November 11, 1889. It remained a territory for far longer than others that had achieved statehood, despite its economic strength and foundations. It was a hotly debated issue whether Washington should become a state — revealing concerns surrounding legitimacy, oversight, power and money. Throughout Fire Season, these themes are also reflected in the characters' individual changes and growth. While Washington had been steadily booming and growing, statehood was a precipice on which everything would change.

The tension surrounding statehood was heightened by Spokane Falls' Great Fire of 1889. Spokane Falls was in a period of great prosperity and one of Washington's largest and most successful cities at that time, which made it all the more cataclysmic. The origins of the fire, which broke out on August 4th, are still unknown, and this is one of the mysteries that Fire Season explores — only Roslyn knows its origin due to her supernatural powers. Many fires had been sweeping through the Pacific Northwest at that period in time, and initially this one struck residents as a "trifling affair." But it grew quickly, consuming much of the town's business district, destroying numerous buildings and bridges, only to burn itself out late in the night.

The Great Spokane Falls Fire of 1889 was initially seen as a catastrophe. Yet, as observed by the character Quake in Fire Season, fire is a necessary component for growth, as it clears out old underbrush and debris to make room for sunlight while also nourishing the soil. In this way, the fire resulted in growth for Spokane Falls, making way for modernization, with new, updated buildings erected to replace the rundown structures the fire had consumed.

Destruction after the Great Spokane Falls Fire of 1889, courtesy of Spokane Public Library

Filed under People, Eras & Events

This "beyond the book article" relates to Fire Season. It originally ran in September 2022 and has been updated for the July 2023 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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