Great Fire of 1910
|Great Fire of 1910|
Little North Fork of the St. Joe River, Idaho
|Location||Washington, Idaho, Montana|
|Date||August 20–21, 1910|
|Burned area||3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2)|
|Ignition source||not officially determined|
|Land use||logging, mining, railroads|
The Great Fire of 1910 (also commonly referred to as the Big Blowup or the Big Burn) was a wildfire that burned about three million acres (12,000 km², approximately the size of Connecticut) in northeast Washington, northern Idaho (the panhandle), and western Montana. The area burned included parts of the Bitterroot, Cabinet, Clearwater, Coeur d'Alene, Flathead, Kaniksu, Kootenai, Lewis and Clark, Lolo, and St. Joe national forests. The firestorm burned over two days (August 20–21, 1910), and killed 87 people, including 78 firefighters. It is believed to be the largest, although not the deadliest, fire in recorded U.S. history.
There were a great number of problems that contributed to the destruction of the Great Fire of 1910. The fire season started early that year, because the summer of 1910 was hot and dry like no other. The drought resulted in plenty of dry vegetation, so forests were teeming with dry fuel. Fires were set by hot cinders flung from locomotives, sparks, lightning, and backfiring crews, and by mid August, there were 1,000 to 3,000 fires burning in Idaho, Montana, Washington and British Columbia.
 The Big Blowup
On August 20, a cold front blew in and brought hurricane-force winds, whipping the hundreds of small fires into one or two blazing infernos. The fire was impossible to fight; there were too few men and too little supplies. The United States Forest Service (then called the National Forest Service) was only five years old at the time and unprepared for the possibilities of this dry summer. Later the U.S. Army was brought in to help fight the blaze.
Smoke from the fire was said to have been seen as far east as Watertown, New York and as far south as Denver, Colorado. It was reported that at night, 500 miles (800 km) out into the Pacific Ocean, ships could not navigate by the stars because the sky was cloudy with smoke.
The most famous story of survival was that of Ed Pulaski, a U.S. Forest Service ranger who led a large group of his men to safety in an abandoned prospect mine outside of Wallace, Idaho, just as they were about to be overtaken by the fire. It is said that Pulaski fought off the flames at the mouth of the shaft until he passed out like the others. Around midnight, a man announced that he, at least, was getting out of there. Knowing that they would have no chance of survival if they ran, Pulaski drew his pistol, threatening to shoot the first person who tried to leave. In the end, all but five of the forty or so men survived.
Additionally one third of Wallace, Idaho, was burned to the ground, with an estimated $1 million dollars (calculation 1910) in damage. Passenger trains took thousands of Wallace residents to Spokane, Washington, and Missoula, Montana. Another train with 1,000 people from Avery took refuge in a tunnel after racing across a burning trestle. Other towns with severe damage included: Burke, Kellogg, Murray, and Osburn, Idaho. The towns of Avery and Saltese as well as a major part of Wallace were saved by backfires.
The Fire of 1910 shaped the U.S. Forest Service. Before the epic event, there were many debates on how to handle forest fires; whether to let them burn because they were a part of nature and were expensive to fight, or to fight them in order to protect the forests. After the devastation of the Big Blowup, it was decided that the U.S. Forest Service was to prevent and battle against every wildfire. More recently, this absolutist attitude to wildfires has been criticized for altering the natural disturbance mechanisms that drive forest ecosystem structure.
 See also
- Baudette Fire of 1910 in northern Minnesota
- Avery Depot, a train depot in Avery, Idaho used as an evacuation site
- Edward Pulaski Tunnel and Placer Creek Escape Route an abandoned prospect mine used by Ed Pulaski to save himeself and his crew
- Great Fire of 1910 http://www.freebase.com/view/en/great_fire_of_1910
- Egan, Timothy. - "Ideas & Trends: Why Foresters Prefer to Fight Fire With Fire". - The New York Times. - August 20, 2000.
- Inferno http://library.thinkquest.org/C0119184/english/historical_fires_1910.shtml
- Petersen, Jim. - The West is Burning Up!: - "The 1910 Fire". - Evergreen Magazine. (c/o Idaho Forest Products Commission) - Winter Edition 1994-1995.
- http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114248029 NPR Fresh Air October 29, 2009
- The West is Burning Up! http://www.idahoforests.org/fires.htm
- Pyne, Stephen J. (2008). Year of the Fires: The Story of the Great Fires of 1910. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Company. pp. 155–157, 175–176. ISBN 978-0-87842-544-0.
- The Source http://www.foresthistory.org/Events/lecture2001%20text.html
- The Big Burn: Idaho and Montana, August 1910 part two http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4219853.html?page=2
- Kavenaugh, Laurie. - "On the Scene: Senior Artist Shares Hometown Tragedy". - Chico Enterprise-Record. - August 10, 2000.
- Geranios, Nicholas K. - "Current Fires Share Similarities with Fires of 1910". - Associated Press. - (c/o Lewiston Morning Tribune. - August 16, 2000.
- Kramer, Becky. - "A Region's Baptism of Fire". - The Spokesman-Review. - August 21, 2000.
- Landers, Rich. - "Wild Lands in Waiting". - The Spokesman-Review. - September 26, 2004.
—Landers, Rich. - "1910 Forest Fires Sparked Pulaski's Fame". - The Spokesman-Review. - July 2, 2006.
- The Big Burn: Idaho and Montana, August 1910 part three http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/earth/4219853.html?page=3
 Further reading
- Cohen, Steve, and Donald C. Miller, (1978). - The Big Burn: The Northwest's Forest Fire of 1910. - Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company. - 4493723.
- Egan, Timothy, (2009). - The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - ISBN 0-618-96841-5.
- "When the Mountains Roared: Stories of the 1910 Fire". - Forest History Society.
- Spencer, Betty Goodwin, (1956). - The Big Blowup. - Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers. - 2994642.
- The 1910 Fires, a history of the Great Fire of 1910 from the Forest History Society website.
- "The Big Burn of 1910". - Missoulian
- "1910 Fire In Mineral County". - Mineral County Historical Society. - c/o Mineral County Information and Commerce.
- "1910 Fire Commemoration Information Site". - Region One US Forest Service On-line Exhibit; with lots of information, maps, photos, a bibliography, etc.