The Idaho Press August 25, 1910
BURIED IN HOLE
BIG CREEK CASUALTIES.
Dead . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Injured . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Joe Beauchamp, homesteader.
Upton B. Smith, Kellogg.
M. J. Elliott.
W. Cameron, Wardner, Last Chance
Roderick Ames, homesteader.
Two unidentified Italians.
Four unidentified dead.
After a most fatiguing trip, Dr. Mason
and Dr. Knudson of Wardner, arrived in Wallace at 11 o’clock today after having
made the journey to the upper waters of Big creek to minister to the sufferings
of the men injured in the great fire. They found 13 dead and 18 injured.
Seven of the men were found in a small prospect hole that was only about 5 feet long. These men were burned beyond recognition, but by means of some papers upon them found in the tunnel their names were learned.
In addition $55 in currency, which was badly burned and $1.85 in silver was found. The men were burned to such a crisp that they could not be removed from the tunnel prospect hole so that they were buried there, dirt being thrown over the hole. The other men who were killed by falling trees were placed in graves that were hastily dug near the spot where they were killed.
Of the injured only one is in a serious condition. He is Fred Owens, a young man. He sustained severe burns and is suffering from incipient pneumonia, caused by inhaling flames. The doctors say that it is necessary to get him out at once or he will die at the camp. He may be brought out today.
The money that was found is believed to belong to Joe Beauchamp, one of the Big creek homesteaders. His second papers, partly burned, were found in the hole, also his spectacles. A wallet also was located in the tunnel belonging to one of the Italians who was burned and by it it is believed he can be identified.
When the great hurricane sprang up in a moment placing the fire beyond control, the seven men fled panic stricken to the small hole, after staying in a clearing for a few moments. They had been there but a few minutes when the timber at its mouth was on fire.
Survivors of the camp declare that the positions of the men show that they were engaged in a frightful struggle for safety when they believed that they were doomed in this small hole.
Their positions showed that they fought one another with all their strength to get the farthest away from the fire that was eating out their lives. The fists of all were clenched and some of them had expired with their clenched fists poised as they were about to deliver a blow on some one of those with whom they were fighting for their lives in an attempt to get a breath of air. They were piled in a mass. They had rushed into the death trap one after another and had engaged in a fight for life from the moment they entered.
Three Die Together.
Three men killed by trees were all
together when they met death. To escape the falling timber and fire they leaped
behind a great tree. They had been there less than two minutes, say companions
who saw them killed, until a huge tree uprooted and fell against the one behind
which the men were standing for protection. The fall of the first tree weakened
the other and both fell to the ground, killing the men instantly.
A third was killed by a flying knot hurled by the wind through the fire at a great rate. He was found behind a log in a sort of stooping posture and had just raised his head over the log to obtain a view of the fire in front of him when he was struck by the flying brand.
Another was found dying the next morning and he succumbed soon after his discovery. The survivors were startled to see a person in human form, but who resembled a ghost more than anything else, suddenly fall over a log and crawl under another. His clothing had been mostly burned off and his body was fearfully burned. He was raving when the other men rescued him and it was necessary to drag him from underneath the log. He breathed his last soon after being carried to water.
Doctors’ Hard Trip.
Although Dr. Mason and Dr. Knudson left Wardner Sunday
afternoon they did not reach the first camp of injured on Big creek till 1
o’clock yesterday afternoon. The guide who was to pilot them over by the way of
Pine creek became frightened for the safety of his wife and children when a
great wind arose Sunday afternoon and he left the physicians and a ranger to
find their way to the camps while he returned to his homestead to protect his
The forestry officer was not acquainted with that section of the country and since everything had been burned over it was difficult to travel. The party of three traveled all of Sunday night and all of Monday morning and not a trace of the camps could be found.
Finally they took a ridge and by traveling along this they at last sighted one of the camps down in the basin, where a number of injured were found. The other camp was shown to them and it was then learned that they had been traveling in a circle about the places where the injured were being cared for.
A number of the Big creek survivors
arrived in Wallace this morning. Some of them went to the hospitals, while the
others were not in a condition to require treatment there. All of them had been
scorched and had inhaled flames.
Albert O. Smith of E1528 Third avenue was one of the survivors who reached here this morning. He was one of the crew which lost so many men. When the great wind storm first struck the camp about 4 o’clock in the afternoon of Saturday he with the others rushed to the clearing. They stayed there but a short time when all sought the water of the creek.
"There was only a small stream running," said Mr. Smith today, "and even with my sweater soaked in water it was scorched by the fire that was sweeping over us. I kept it over my head and gave my jumper to another man who had nothing with which to protect himself.
"There were 26 of us in the creek and all of us came out alive.
"The sight of the men killed in the prospect hole was terrible. They were piled up there showing that they had been engaged in an awful fight for their lives when they were finally smothered and burned to death. I think that it was just 4:55 when we went into the water for my watch filled with water when we struck the creek and stopped running at that time."
Others who came out today were John Morsey, E. Held, C. Bush and Hank Allen. Bush was badly burned about the eye and was taken to the Hope hospital.
"It was the coolest men in the crew who were saved," said Smith. "The men who lost their heads were killed."