Monuments for the 1910 Big Burn fires dedicated

Wallace Idaho 1910 fires monument
Wallace, ID monument. Photo by Greg Greenhoe

Over the weekend there were several commemorative events held in northern Idaho and western Montana for the Big Burn fires of 1910, the fires which changed the course of wildland fire management in the United States. The U. S. Forest Service Honor Guard was at all of the events. In some cases they had to split up to cover them all.

At least two monuments were dedicated. The one in the photo above in Wallace, Idaho was unveiled on August 21, 2010 exactly 100 years after the town of Wallace burned. Donors from the local community and from around the country raised over $40,000 for the monument honoring the firefighters who gave their lives a century ago. It is on the west side of town at the Visitor Center at 10 River Street.

The other monument (below) was dedicated on Friday in Wallace, ID exactly 100 years after Ranger Ed Pulaski directed his 45-man fire crew to take refuge in the Nicholson Mine after they became entrapped by one of the fires. Unfortunately, five men died in the mine, while 40 survived. It is in the Nine Mile Cemetery in Wallace and serves as a headstone for the firefighters buried there.

Monument 1910 fires for Ranger Pulaskis crew
This monument honoring the fatalities on Ranger Ed Pulaski's fire crew on August 20, 1910 was dedicated in Nine Mile Cemetery in Wallace, ID on August 20, 2010. Photo: Greg Greenhoe

U. S. Forest Service employees on the Coeur D’Alene River Ranger District on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest found the old blue prints that Pulaski designed for the monument, but was unable to get built. The text on the plaque below the monument reads:

The granite headstone before you is the original design that Ranger Ed Pulaski created in 1921 after the U.S. Congress obligated money to erect memorials for the firefighters that perished in the Great Fire of 1910. Ranger Pulaski’s supervisors thought that his design was too small and it never became a reality. In August of 2010, with contributions donated by Coeur D’Alene River Ranger District employees, the headstone he envisioned was set in place here at the site of the men who died under the supervision of Ranger Pulaski on August 21, 1910.

Here is a video describing the dedication of Pulaski’s monument, and the fires of 1910.

Thanks Greg

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

4 thoughts on “Monuments for the 1910 Big Burn fires dedicated”

  1. Everyone interested in fire should read Timothy Egan’s “The Big Burn” about the 1910 fires and the politics of the early US Forest Service. Eagan is a great writer and his book is both gripping and enlightening. Anyone who works for the USFS should read this critical history and thank both Gifford Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt for their jobs and for the national forests.

  2. I second the endorsement of The Big Burn. Wish I could have attended the dedication. If I ever pass through Wallace again (it’s been a few years), I’ll try to locate the monuments.

  3. Another great read is Steve Pyne’s “The Year of the Fires”. Big Burn kind of paints the political and social picture, but The Year of the Fires is a more personal account from the firefighters.

  4. My grandfather fought the fire in Wallace Idaho. My grandmother rode a flatcar to Spokane. My aunt is burried at the Wallace Cemetery and her grave is very close to the Monument of the men who hid in the in the Bullion Mine. This is all very interesting.

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