Baudette Fire of 1910
|Location||Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota|
|Date(s)||October 7, 1910|
|Burned area||300,000 acres (1,200 km2)|
|Ignition source||Drought, sparks from trains, small brush fires|
The Baudette Fire, also known as the Spooner-Baudette Fire, was a large wildfire that burned 1,200 to 1,450 square kilometres (300,000 to 360,000 acres) in Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, including nearly all of the twin towns of Spooner and Baudette on October 7, 1910. In addition to Baudette, the fire also burned the villages of Graceton, Pitt, Williams, and Cedar Spur. Damage was horrific yet less so in the communities of Zipple, Roosevelt, Swift and Warroad in the U.S. and Stratton, Pinewood, Rainy River, and Sprague across the river in Canada which also suffered losses. The Town of Rainy River lost its lumber mill, but saved many of the residents of Baudette and Spooner since the residential area was not affected, their American friends were welcomed into homes where they remained for a very long time as their homes had to be rebuilt, creating a strong bond between the two communities.
Lake Of The Woods County was known for its logging industry during the early 1900s. Similar to other forest fires, this disaster took place over dry, harvested land which was vulnerable to potential fire destruction. Homesteaders earned their money by cutting and selling their wood to various buyers. The main workforce employing the majority of the area was the logging industry. Several large sawmills were established early on at Rainy River, Baudette and Spooner on the bay of the Baudette river. Timber was floated down the tributaries of the Rainy River to the mills or hauled to the various railroad depots for shipment via rail. When the logging industry was at its peak, one could walk across the bay due to the large amount of logs covering the bay area. Most of the homesteads were still covered with timber. What fields there were, were small and used to grow enough grain for animal feed and for household use. This large tract of forest, broken up with small fields and slash filled cut-over areas was a textbook fuel arrangement for a large conflagration to develop.
On October 7 a forest fire raged out of control across Lake of the Woods County, MN; leveling everything in its path. The fire erupted out of the slash left behind from logging, sparked by trains or small brush fires. Fires were extreme because the weather conditions were extreme that year, especially nationwide. The region had experienced a severe drought for months, which combined with the available fuels and heavy winds, resulted in a massive blaze. Survivors believe that there were four main fires to start with, which then grew, merged and raced quickly towards the towns. There were no attempts at fighting the fire, because it developed so quickly it caught people by surprise. The settlements burned in less than two hours, including the railroad bridge over the bay that connected the two towns.
The aftermath of the fire was bleak. The smoke-laden, wind-blown streets, the towns barren except for the piles of rubble from the burned buildings and in the country land was covered with ashes. By the end of the day the villages of Cedar Spur, Graceton, Pitt, Baudette and Spooner lay in ruins. Four hundred thousand acres were blackened. Homesteads across the county were destroyed and 43 lives were lost.
Residents of Spooner and Baudette found refuge by riding trains across the Rainy River to the town of Rainy River, Ontario. Sources put the death toll between 29 and 42 people. Thousands were left homeless with winter fast approaching. The American Red Cross assisted survivors; a tent city was built in a day to provide shelter, and many supplies were donated in order to rebuild. The Red Cross and the National Guard immediately began the rebuilding effort and many homesteaders now turned to the chore of land clearing with hopes for a crop in the spring. The lumber mills were either spared or undamaged; and so there was some reason for hopefulness for the future. The Baudette Fire was the third worst fire in the history of Minnesota measured by casualties, after the 1918 Cloquet Fire and the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894.
The total amount of land burned in the state of Minnesota in 1910 was estimated by Forestry Commissioner C. C. Andrews to be greater than 400,000 square hectometres (990,000 acres). The Baudette Fire, along with the Great Hinckley Fire, helped Andrews convince others that active management of forest practices was necessary to prevent massive fires like these. For this reason, the 1910 Baudette Burn is considered one of the most significant wildfires in Minnesota history. As a direct result of this catastrophe, funds were approved by the legislature to establish the Minnesota Forestry Service (later the DNR) with its system of forest rangers and forestry districts.
On October 13, 1910 a funeral service was held for 27 of the fire victims in a mass grave at Elm Park Cemetery, Baudette. A marker still exists for them at the grave site. There is also a historical marker commemorating the Baudette Fire, located on Minnesota State Highway 72 at the end of the Baudette-Rainy River International Bridge.
- Peshtigo Fire of 1871 in Wisconsin
- Great Hinckley Fire of 1894
- Great Fire of 1910 in Washington, Idaho, & Montana
- 1918 Cloquet Fire
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- Pyne, Stephen J. (2008). Year of the Fires: The Story of the Great Fires of 1910. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Company. pp. 228–232. ISBN 978-0-87842-544-0.
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- "Fire History and Facts About Fire". Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Archived from the original on 30 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- Rubinstein, Sarah P. (2003). Minnesota history along the highways. Minnesota Historical Society Press. pp. 270–271. ISBN 0-87351-456-4.