August 18, 2016

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: The Great Fire of 1910

On August 20, 1910, in the midst of a drought, lightning, locomotives, and backfiring crews sparked mutiple fires in northeast Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana. The flames soon converged into what became known as The Big Burn, a forest fire that took 80 lives and burned more than three million acres in 36 hours.

Key dates

1905—The U.S. Forest Service is founded, in part to protect forests from fire and from "exploiters" like poachers, loggers, and livestock grazers.
June–August 1910—A three-year drought culminates in 1000-3000 small fires in Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
August 20, 1910—Gale-force winds cause small fires to burn into each other, creating an unstoppable inferno and leading to widespread destruction across northwestern Montana and northern Idaho.

In the newspapers

To find more

Search for these terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: forest fire (limit by date range), wallace, st. regis, st. joe, taft, haugan, thompson falls, avery, forest service, gifford pinchot, ed pulaski, 25th regiment, big blowup, devil’s broom fire

Written by Catherine W. Ockey