Today marks the 108th anniversary of the start of one of the largest forest fires in U.S. history, the Great Fire of 1910, which burnt 3 million acres in Northern Idaho and Western Montana in just 2 days. Hurricane-force winds pulled whole burning trees from the ground, roots and all, turning them into giant roman candles, igniting anything they hit. While there was no one official cause, the summer of 1910 was the driest in memory and hundreds of small fires started by coal-powered locomotives traveling through dense, bone dry forests, as well as accidental fires from loggers, homesteaders and campers, all converged from the terrible wind-storm into a raging inferno on the afternoon of August 20th. 86 people perished from the fires and entire towns were destroyed. By noon on August 21st, the smoke darkened the sky as far north as Saskatoon, SK, Canada, as far south as Denver, CO, and as far east as Watertown, NY. 500 miles out to sea in the Pacific Ocean, ships could not navigate by the stars from the dense smoke. Overall that summer, 20 million acres burned across the Northwest.
Images from top: PG 8-C4a, remains of a brick building at 721 Bank Street and in background, O.R. & N. depot, Wallace, ID; PG 8-X545h, two men burned in the fire; PG 8-C5a, Placer Creek, near Wallace, ID, after the fire; PG 8-X88 Coeur d’Alene Hardware warehouse ruins, Wallace, ID. Info from USDA Forest Service Document "The Great Fire of 1910″