When The Mountains Roared Home

When the Mountains Roared collage.


Dedication of "When The Mountains Roared"

This commemorative reprint of "When The Mountains Roared" is dedicated to all who perished during the fires of 1910 and to the communities scarred by these tragic fires. It is important to remember these stories and understand how these events reshaped communities and influenced the young U.S. Forest Service. A hundred years later, we must continue to work together to restore healthy forests while learning to live with fire on the land, and in honoring the heritage of the great fires that run deep through our nation's history.

This Historical recount has been republished twice, once in the 1960's and the second one in the 1980's. And now in 2010, one hundred years later. No corrections were made to this document.

The material has been re-purposed for easier web-viewing.




History of the 1910 Forest Fires – Idaho & Western Montana
By Elers Koch

Photo of Elers Koch.If history is not written it is soon forgotten. The 1910 forest fire in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region is an episode which had much to do with shaping the fire policy not only of that region but the whole United States. The tragic and disastrous culmination of that battle to save the forests shocked the nation into a realization of the necessity of a better system of fire control.

It is not thirty-two years since that memorable summer. The men who took part in the campaign are getting older each year and before many more years have elapsed the 1910 fire season will be only a tradition. For this reason the writer who, as Supervisor of the Lolo Forest, had some small part in the campaign and the background of a current knowledge of the regional situation through those trying days, has undertake to compile an informal record of the fire history of that year. This is not written for publication, but primarily as a record for the Forest Service, so that the story will not be lost.

A large mass of historical material was assembled under the direction of Mr. Fred Morrell in the 1926, and free used has made of these records.

Background Information

"The first Forest Reserves in the Region date back to February 22, 1897."  Organization of the National Forests (1910)

 "At the time of the great fire, the C.M. & St. P. Railroad had just been opened through the St. Joe territory. "
The Milwaukee Railroad

Official Report of 1910 Fires, 6/24/1911, Letter from W.G. Wiegle, Forest Supervisor to District Forester, 8 pages. [This letter has been "abbreviated" by removing the pay and specific information about firefighters to make it easier to read. The informaton has been included with the Stories of Firefighting Crews below.]


Area Fires

"Three million acres of green forest burned, most of it in the two terrifying days."

1910 Photo by R.H.McKay, St. Regis, burned white pine.

The Great Fire

The Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe

Wallace Burns

Lolo Forest

Cabinet National Forest - Tuscor Fire

Pend Oreille National Forest - DeFaut Fire

Clearwater Forest - Moose Creek Crew

Kaniksu National Forest, Kootenai Forest & NezPerce Forest


Individual Stories

"She's coming: The whole country's afire! Grab your stuff, ranger, and let's get outa here!" gasped the leader."

The next few chapters are accounts from individuals who witnessed the great fire.

"The Big Fire" by Joe B. Halm

"Our experience with forest fires", by Mr. Swain

Roy A. Phillip's Story 

Individual Experience

Photo of R.H. McKay, who took many of the afer-fire photos, among other photographers.


Stories of Firefighting Crews

Includes Pay and Specific Details on individuals where available.

Photo of Edward Pulaski.

Pulaski's Crew - Placer Creek

Bell's Crew - Middle Fork Big Creek

Rock's Crew - Setzer Creek

Debbitt's Crew - Setzer Creek

Photo of Joe Halm. Hollingshead's Crew - West Fork Big Creek

Danielson's Crew - Stevens Peak

Taylor's  Crew - Bullion Mine

Joe Halm's Crew - St. Joe River


After-Effects of the Fire

After-Effects of the Fire


Salvage of Timber

Burying the Dead

Letter from L.C. Stockdale, Assistant Regional Forester, Jan. 27, 1933, re: St. Maries Burial Plot

R.H. McKay, 1910; end of fire line near main business district in Wallace, ID.