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In August of 1910 on the Coeur d’Alene National Forest, a group of timber cutters, miners, and assorted individuals looking to make a dollar, found themselves running for their lives down a steep canyon to an unknown end. Ed Pulaski, the Forest Ranger in charge of this group of hastily collected firefighters knew he had some quick decisions to make.
Conditions across the west had been unseasonably dry with below average rainfall since April. Fires, both lightening and human caused, had started in the spring and reached a crescendo in July and again in late August. The group behind the effort to suppress these fires was an organization in its infancy, the newly created United States Forest Service. Forest Supervisors in Idaho and Montana did their best to control the blazes with the resources they had; a handful of recent Forestry graduates, Forest Guards hired from the local populace, and whatever labor could be gathered from the mines, timber camps, and bars throughout the west.
By the time the fires peaked and reached the point known as “The Blow-up” approximately 3 million acres burned across Idaho and into Montana with several towns burned and an estimated 85 people killed both firefighters and public. The impact of this event shaped fire policy and direction within the U.S. Forest Service for decades to come and strongly influenced the public perception of the role of federal agencies in fire suppression and the role of fire within the landscape.
1910 Fires Staff Ride project team:
- Adam Ackerman – U.S. Forest Service – Colville NF
- Scott Ebel – National Park Service – North Cascades
- Doug Frederick – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Pacific Region
- Ken Meinhart – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Pacific Region
- Jason Riggins – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Pacific Region
Special thanks to the following individuals for their valuable support and help with finalization of the 1910 Fires Staff Ride:
- Julian Affuso – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Southwest Region
- Gail Aschenbrenner-West – U.S. Forest Service – Idaho Panhandle NF
- Jim Cook – U.S. Forest Service – National Interagency Fire Center
- Ken Frederick – Bureau Land Management – National Interagency Fire Center
- Steve Matz – U.S. Forest Service – Idaho Panhandle NF
- Nina Walker – Bureau of Land Management – National Interagency Fire Center