1910 Fires: People
Edward C. Pulaski
Edward Pulaski is the iconic hero most associated with Forest Rangers and The 1910 Fires. He began working for the Forest Service in 1908 as a Forest Ranger on the Coeur d’Alene National Forest, and in 1910 directed hundreds of firefighters in daily activities outside of Wallace.
During the two day peak of fire activity known as The Big Blowup, Pulaski and his crew became trapped by the rapidly moving fire fronts and he directed his men to a mine tunnel where they took refuge until the fires passed. 45 of his men survived (five perished) the ordeal thanks to Pulaski’s knowledge of the area, his ability to remain calm and most of all, his selfless acts of heroism.
From 1910 to 1929, Edward C. Pulaski served as District Ranger on the old Wallace Ranger District, retriing from service in 1930. During this time, Pulaski is credited with developing a combination ax and grubbing hoe tool. This has since been accepted as the standard fire fighting tool of the U.S. Forest Service. In his honor, the tool carries his name, Pulaski. He died in 1931, and his gravesite is located at Forest Cemetery in Coeur d' Alene Idaho.
Letter of Recognition from the Regional Forester to Pulaski dated November 9, 1910., 1 page.
Article: Pulaski Tunnel Trail Dedicated, 1 page.
"A forester in the Northwest dates the events of his life by the fire years. The 1910, 1917, 1919, 1926 and 1931 fire seasons each have a character of their own, and in each year are individual fire campaigns which the forester remembers as the soldier remembers the separate engagements of the war."
– Elers Koch, Lolo National Forest Supervisor, 1942
Joseph B. Halm & R.H. McKay
McKay was a Missoula, Montana-based commercial photographer and Halm was a Forest Service employee. Both played an integral part in photographing the aftermath of the 1910 fires. In fact McKay was hired for this specific purpose.
Halm was a Forest Ranger and Deputy Supervisor on the Coeur d’Alene National Forest during the tragedy. He actively took part in fighting the fires in his district. Halm retired from the Forest Service in 1945.
Halm's Retirement News Release
Allen's Camp - All Safe
(List of names of accounted for people.)
Elers Koch began working for the Forest Service in 1903 and spent the next 40 years with the agency. He was supervisor of the Lolo National Forest during the 1910 fires and later wrote an account of the disaster (see History of the 1910 Fires in Idaho and Western Montana). Koch later went on to become assistant Regional Forester for the Northern Region. He retired from the Forest Service in 1943.
Koch's Retirement News Release
Silcox first became involved with the Forest Service in the summer of 1904 as a student worker. He acted as Inspector and Associate District Forester in the Northern Region from 1906 to 1911, first under E. A. Sherman and then under W. B. Greeley. He later went on to become District Forester from 1911 to 1917.
Roscoe Haines, Acting Forest Supervisor on the Coeur d'Alene National Forest Link to his report.
Photograph of Roscoe Haines courtesy of Robin Tokmakian, grandchild of Haines.
W. B. Greeley was the Chief Forester from 1908 to 1911 of what is today the Northern Region. He later went on to become the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.
R. A. Phillips
Roy A. Phillips worked for the Forest Service from 1910 to 1951. In 1910 he was appointed as a temporary Forest Guard on the Lolo National Forest.
Phillip's Retirement News Release
William G. Weigle
William Weigle worked for the Forest Service for nearly 30 years, from 1903 to 1933. During the 1910 fires he was supervisor of the Coeur d’Alene National Forest. In 1911 Weigle wrote a report of the tragedy (see Report of Supervisor Weigle on Fires of 1910 in which Lives were Lost).
William G. Weigle's Retirement News Release
Forty years later, Betty Goodwin Spencer - a north Idaho author - gave this account of Aug. 20, 1910:
"The forests staggered, rocked, exploded and then shriveled under the holocaust. Great red balls of fire rolled up the mountainsides. Crown fires, from one to 10 miles wide, streaked with yellow and purple and scarlet, raced through treetops 150 feet from the ground. Bloated bubbles of gas burst murderously into forked and greedy flames.
"The heat of the fire and the masses of flaming gas created whirlwinds that mowed down mile-wide swaths of pine and fir and cedar in advance of the flames. And behind all this, advancing ominously and steadily, destroying everything in its path - the ground fire.
"Fire brands the size of a man's arm were blasted down in the streets of towns 50 miles from the nearest fire line. The sun was completely obscured in Billings, 500 miles away from the main path of the fire. Remarkable atmospheric disturbances were felt all over the country. While United States Weather Forecaster Brandenburg in Denver watched his thermometer, the temperature dropped 19 degrees in 10 minutes, and at 5 o'clock, a 42 mile-an-hour gale swept Denver, enveloping it in a pall of smoke from the Idaho-Montana fires, 800 miles distant. At Cheyenne, Wyoming, the thermometer registered 38, the lowest reported on the weather map.
"You can't outrun wind and fire that are traveling 70 miles an hour. You can't hide when you are entirely surrounded by red-hot color. You can't see when it's pitch black in the afternoon. There were men who went stark raving crazy, men who flung themselves into the on-rushing flames, men who shot themselves.
"It was the Big Blowup!"