The Idaho Press  August 25, 1910
 

FORTY IN TUNNEL
               DURING FIRE
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                THE DEAD

    Wm. Learmouth.
    Joe Fern.
    Harry Hanson.
    Three unidentified.

   
Prisoners in a mine tunnel on the west fork of Placer creek about three miles from Wallace, 40 men spent a terrible five hours Saturday night, while they fought for breathing space while suffocating, and five of them succumbed to the smoke that filled the place to which they had fled for safety. Another man of the crew fell on the trail while fleeing to the tunnel and he was burned to death. Three others are reported missing. All the survivors sustained injuries os some kind, all having inhaled great quantities of smoke.
    These forty men had one of the most terrible experiences in the annals of the Coeur d'Alenes. When the crew reached the tunnel it was entirely free of smoke but fires were raging in all directions about it. They had been in the place but a short time when the fire swept down the side of the hill and burned over the mouth of the tunnel filling it with smoke.
        Put Wet Coats on Face.

    Forest Officer Pulaski, who was in charge of the men, ordered all to lie down on the floor of the tunnel, wet their coats and handkerchiefs and place them over their mouths. Some of the men tried to break from the tunnel as soon as the smoke began pouring in, but Mr. Pulaski declared that no one would be allowed to emerge from the tunnel into the certain death that awaited them in the roaring furnace outside.
            Fearful Scenes.
   
Fearful scenes ensued among the men who thought that death was surely coming to all of them. Some of them offered up prayers, others wept and others begged for a breath of air and for rescue.
            Pulaski a Hero.
   
During all of the five hours Officer Pulaski stood at the entrance of the tunnel and fought the flames that at times were eating their way into the tunnel. Near him were two horses that were dragged into the place with the men. Every few moments some one of the terrified men would jump up from the damp floor upon which they were lying with their faces in the water and clay and would declare that they could not stand it any longer Pulaski would then order them down.
           Crawl to Creek.

   
Finally, after the men had been in the fearful prison for nearly five hours one man stumbled out of the tunnel. No sooner had he emerged then he fell upon his face and then crawled to the creek that was a short distance away. At that point a small dam made a little pond and it was into this that the man tumbled. At the time the flames were leaping over the creek from one bank to another, the mountains on either side of the stream being a mass of fire.
    Won't Keep Heads Wet.
   
The other men in the tunnel who had seen the action of the first thought that he was going to certain death and they did not follow at once. More men refused to keep their heads buried in the water-soaked hats and coats and handkerchiefs and began to sit upright. The entreaties and commands of the others were of no avail and the men who refused to keep their faces in the damp ground and clothing were the ones who lost their lives.
        Run to Small Pond.
   
One by one the men continued to emerge from the tunnel and in every instance they fell to the ground as soon as they gained the open and then crawled to the little pond in the creek. Finally this creek contained all save the dead in the party. The terrified men sat huddled together in the water as close as they possibly could get. The timber was afire all about them and they kept as much of their bodies as possible under the water.
    Two Leave for Wallace.
   
Finally, two of the number said that they were going to Wallace rather than be boiled to death there, so W. Smith and L. Couter started out on their perilous trip. In front of them there was nothing to be seen but a mass of flames. The men kept to the creek and arrived in Wallace about 1 o'clock a.m. Sunday, bringing a report of the awful experience they had been through. They had difficulty in reaching the city and both were exhausted when they arrived here. One of them tumbled in a heap on the lawn at the power plant. Dr. Hanson chanced to be present and he placed the man in his auto and took him to the hospital for treatment.
      Are Terror Stricken.
   
Like all of the men who escaped the death hole they were of fearful appearance. They resembled negroes more than white men. They had hats, their faces were black as coal from the smoke and cinders and their hair was matted. They staggered as they walked and it appeared every moment as though they would fall to the ground. All were injured, too.
    Have Terrified Look.
   
The other men remained in the pool till about 4 o'clock Sunday morning when they left for Wallace. Before their arrival a rescue party had been sent from Wallace and they met the men coming down. The terrified looks on their countenances plainly showed the night of dread and fear they had passed through. They were a most pathetic sight as they staggered along and a number of them mumbled incoherently. Most of them had sustained burns or cuts, the latter injury occurring in their falls and the former while they were in the pool which was surrounded by the fire. They were taken to doctors' offices and their wounds dressed, when they were given food and then a bed for rest.
         Praise Pulaski.
   
All unite in saying that Mr. Pulaski proved himself a hero and that he is deserving of some honor from the government. He was in charge of this crew on the Big creek fire. The great gale that sprung up Saturday afternoon in a few moments lashed the embers into flying brands and before the fire fighters could realize it the blaze was over the lines and was burning in all directions.
    Ordered into Tunnel.
   
Pulaski saw that to remain there meant certain death for all of his crew so he quickly marshaled them together and said they would start for Wallace. As they proceeded the fires became worse and seeing that they could not proceed much further the forestry official told his men they must seek safety in the tunnel.
        Gun Is Drawn.

    All but one of the 40 men were willing to enter. The other said that he was going on to Wallace notwithstanding the commands of the man in charge. Pulaski then drew his revolver and forced him to enter with the others. It would have meant certain death for the man to have continued on alone at that time.

     Gives Out Order.

    When the men were got together preparatory for starting for Wallace the government official got them together told them that he must be obeyed in every respect and that if his instructions were followed all would get to safety, otherwise he would not be accountable for their lives.

    Seek Second Tunnel.

    The first tunnel the men entered was not a large one and there was a considerable quantity of timber near its very mouth. Believing that sure death would result to all if they remained there, Mr. Pulaski told the men to keep quiet while he went down the trail several hundred yards to another tunnel to see if it would not give a better means of safety.

    Dash for Second Place.

    He made the trip alone and soon returned, telling the men that if they hurried they could make this tunnel. They were brought out in single file and with Mr. Pulaski in the lead they hastened down the brightly lighted trail. The underbrush about them even was on fire and the roar of the flames on the mountainside was dreadful. In their haste the men had dropped their packs as they scrambled into the big tunnel.

   Fights Fire From Tunnel.

    Mr. Pulaski took his station at the mouth of the tunnel and as the fire attached itself to the timbering he fought it off with his wet coat. While performing this act he sustained a severe injury to his eye, a burning brand striking it.

 Dying Man Chokes Another.

    The survivors tell wonderful tales of their experiences. Joseph Miller of Spokane says that he kept his face in the mud on the floor of the tunnel. Lying alongside him was a young man who, so Miller says, was a mere boy. He seemed to have great difficulty in breathing and Miller told him to keep his face in the damp mud. Suddenly the youth began to gasp and soon was in convulsions. During one of these he reached over and seized Miller by the throat and his fingers sank deep into his throat. Miller's efforts to free the hold on his throat were ineffectual, but in the final death struggle of the youth his hold became freed and he rolled over on his back with a sigh, dead.
   
A. G. Rickey of Spokane, who sustained a number of injuries to his face and hands, was the second man to get in the creek. He said that when he came to after emerging from the tunnel that he heard some one in the pond say, “Hello, Slim, and he then dragged himself into the water.”
    John Jackson was the first to leave the tunnel and seek the water of the creek. He says that the rocks along the bank were so hot that he burned himself in touching them. Others had a like experience.
            Dies Suddenly.

    According to Jackson, one of the men by the name of Libby asked his partner how he was getting along. The partner replied that he was feeling better and inquired how Libby was. Libby had scarcely answered that he was in good condition when he gasped and was dead.
   
Another tells how in the scramble for water in the tunnel, a man lay on him and nearly smothered him. It was only with the greatest difficulty that he was able to remove his body.
    Charles Hickman of Lead, S. D., says that while he was in the tunnel he used a towel all the time to keep his face moist. He says that there was a little stream running in the tunnel and to this the men owe their lives.
    One of the survivors said that he would not go out and fight fire again for $1000 a day. Another said that he would not go out for the whole state of Idaho.
    The two horses that were taken into the tunnel died standing up in the tunnel.
    Among the men who went through the frightful experience in the tunnel were:
    John Miller, Spokane.
    Eli Ossid, Dudley.
    Chas. Colter, Eau Claire, Wis.
    Dam H. Jones, Craterville, Ky.
    C. F. Conroy, Spokane.
    F. M. Bedell, Kellogg.
    John Allen, Laramie, Wyo.
    A. G. Hickey, Spokane.
    John Jackson, Spokane.
    Ben Smith, Spokane.
    Percy Stewart, Moscow, University of Idaho.
    Joe Deveneau, Utica, N. Y.
    M. Miller, Kalamazoo, Mich.
    Chas. Hickman, Lead, S. D.
    Andrew Stockton.
    W. Smith.
    Tom Dugam.
    Fred Zubert.
    Bert Norwood.
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