157: The Big Burn

Today is the 105th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Fire of 1910, the largest forest fire in American history.

Here are some things you may not have known about “The Big Burn.”

The fire burned three million acres in northeast Washington, northern Idaho and northwestern Montana. It took the fire just two days to burn an area the size of the state of Connecticut.

The fire was stoked by dry, hurricane-force winds that blew in on the afternoon of August 20. The winds further dried an already-parched region. In addition to fanning the flames, the winds also blew flaming trees through the air. It is estimated by some that most of the 3-million acres burned in less than six hours.

87 firefighters were killed, the most in any single event until the 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center towers in New York. The death toll would have been higher if not for Ranger Ed Pulaski. Pulaski led his crew of 40 firefighters into a mine shaft as the area was overcome by flames. The air in the shaft was so filled with smoke that Pulaski had to threaten to shoot anyone who tried to leave. In the end, 35 of his 40-man crew survived the inferno.

Our question, who was president of the United States during the Big Burn?

Today is also: Saint Stephen’s Day in Hungary, Restoration of Independence Day in Estonia and World Mosquito Day, a commemoration of the discovery that mosquitos transmit malaria. In the United States it it unofficially National Radio Day and National Lemonade Day. It is also the birthday of former U.S. president Benjamin Harrison, author H.P. Lovecraft, boxing promoter Don King, and singer Robert Plant.

Sources:

www.idahoforests.org/fires/htm

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