The Blackwater fire was caused by a lightning strike on August 18, 1937, in Shoshone National Forest, about 35 miles (56 km) west of Cody, Wyoming, United States. Fifteen firefighters were killed by the forest fire when a dry weather front caused the winds to suddenly increase and change direction. The fire quickly spread into dense forest, trapping some of the firefighters in a firestorm. Nine died during the fire and six died afterwards from severe burns and respiratory complications; 38 others were injured. More U.S. wildland firefighters died in the Blackwater fire than in any incident since the Great Fire of 1910; the death-toll was not surpassed until 2013 when 19 firefighters died in the Yarnell Hill Fire. Firefighters in the first half of the 20th century used mostly hand tools to suppress wildfires, and all gear was carried by the firefighters or by pack animals. Weather forecasting and radio communication were generally poor or nonexistent. After the Blackwater fire, better ways to respond to such fires were developed, including the smokejumper program in 1939 and the Ten Standard Firefighting Orders (a standardized set of wildland firefighting principles) in 1957. (Full article...)
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