Snows in the Pacific Northwest in the winter of 1910 resulted in deadly avalanches in the Cascade and Bitterroot Mountains.  A dry summer followed, and many forest fires proved hard to contain in the region between Glacier National Park and the Cascades.  Then on August 20 and 21 strong winds arrived in the region and pushed the fires into firestorms that devastated millions of acres of forests and some towns laying in those forested areas,  the Big Blowup,  known collectively as the 1910 Fire.

 

 

                 The 1910 Fire has been written about officially by those directly involved and by researchers, and it continues to be written about.  Still, some of the most powerful accounts were those published in newspapers the week or so following the fire(s).  And occasionally new material surfaces, such as, the narrative of a young man sent out to boss a crew of fire fighters hired off the streets of Spokane.  He matter-of-factly describes the experience, his observations, the orders sent to him with the supplies arriving to the fire by pack train.  Keep in mind the automobile is seldom mentioned in 1910 Fire stories.  Railroads were the nation's life lines.  News stories were sent via the telegraph.  Telephone lines were still being strung, and subsequently burned down by the fires.

                So welcome to the 1910 Fire website.  It is hoped that this site will be complete by August 20, 2010, the hundredth anniversary of the Big Blowup.   The website comes from Avery, Idaho, a town with the dubious distinction of being closer than any other community to the sites of the bulk of the fire fatalities.  Avery was also the supply depot with rail service from which fire fighting crews in the nearby forests were supplied by pack trains.

               The available microfilm and internet images of old newspaper articles are often a challenge to read.  Thus transcriptions of those articles are being offered here with no changes in the spelling and sentence structure.  Listings of victims are based on headstone spellings in the case of those killed, or death certificates or coroner's records, where available.  Idaho did not begin requiring death reports until 1911.  Unfortunately for the historic record, most of those who died fighting the forest fires died in Idaho.

                Thanks goes to the historical and genealogical societies and museums and libraries of the region of the fires, and to numerous individuals who helped locate graves as far off as Wisconsin and Illinois and Ohio.  Most of the graves, 57 of them, are in the Fire Fighters Circle at the Woodlawn Cemetery at St. Maries, Idaho.  Monuments and headstones for thirteen more victims are at the Nine Mile Cemetery at Wallace, Idaho.  The remaining nine headstones that have been found are in cemeteries in Idaho, Washington, Montana, Wisconsin and Illinois.  Historical records point toward the potential location of the graves of six more of the dead.  Six more headstones remain elusive or simply don't exist.  Then there are a couple dozen more reports of dead that have yet to be substantiated.  Total known dead from headstones, death certificates, coroner's reports, and, in four cases,  distinct newspaper articles,  equals 92.  Twenty-eight of those 92 died six miles from Avery at the head of Storm Creek near a camp set up for the fire fighters.  Deaths occurred from the Big Blowup at twenty other locations.  And narrow escapes occurred at numerous other locations.

 

 I want to call your attention to the wonderful work done by the Forest Service in fighting the great fires this year.  With very inadequate appropriation made for the Forest Service,  nevertheless that service,  because of the absolute honesty and efficiency with which it has been conducted,  has borne itself so as to make an American proud of having such a body of public servants;  and they have shown the same qualities of heroism in battling with the fire,  at the peril and sometimes to the loss of their lives,  that the firemen of the great cities show in dealing with burning buildings.

- Theodore Roosevelt   September 1910

President of the United States  1901 - 1909