Fund-raising for memorials for 1910 fire fatalities

There is a fund-raising effort underway to erect memorials for the six wildland firefighters that died near Wallace, Idaho in 1910 when they were working on Ranger Edward Pulaski’s crew on the “Big Blowup”, or the “Great Fire of 1910”. At the bottom of this post is information to refresh your memory about Ranger Pulaski, who is legendary from the 1910 fires and his invention of the firefighting tool.

The Kellogg, Idaho Chamber of Commerce has formed a committee to raise money for the memorials. Other supporters of the effort include the Silver Valley Chamber of Commerce, Shoshone County Fire Chiefs’s Association, and the Shoshone County Fire Prevention Coop. On the committee is John Specht, who retired from the US Forest Service as the Northern Rockies Region Operations Chief a few years back. The group plans to dedicate the memorials on August 21.

Here is the text from a letter sent out by John Specht:

I am on a committee that was formed to finance, construct and dedicate a memorial for the firefighters that lost their lives in the 1910 Forest Fire. We have a plan which will have three parts:

1. We will repair and refurbish the 2 mass graves at the Nine Mile Cemetery near Wallace. These graves have 5 firefighters buried in each one. We will also purchase and install directional signs at the cemetery to assist the public in locating these historic sites.
2. We will have a granite stone that matches Ranger Pulaski’s original design for a memorial for the 6 firefighters that lost their lives on his crew. We plan to have this stone installed at the edge of the grave site in the Nine Mile Cemetery where 5 of the 6 firefighters are buried.
3. We are going to purchase a large black granite stone and install it as the centerpiece to a memorial that will be constructed at the Wallace Visitors center at the West end of Wallace. The wording on the memorial will be:

1910 FIREFIGHTERS MEMORIAL
This memorial is dedicated to those firefighters who
lost their lives fighting the “Great Fire of 1910.” Their
heroic efforts while enduring some of the most severe
fire behavior in our nation’s history will not be forgotten.

Dedicated August 21, 2010

As you can imagine accomplishing this long overdue project it will take a substantial amount of money. We have set a goal to raise $25,000. Any individual or organization that donates $500 or more will have their names listed on a plaque as a donor. Any donation will be appreciated. If you can make a donation please make your check out to the 1910 Firefighters Memorial and send it to the address at the top of this letter. I thank you in advance for your support to our project. We will be dedicating these memorials on August 21, 2010 as part of the 100th year anniversary celebration of the 1910 fire. We invite you to attend this very special event.

Sincerely,

John Specht
Box 607
Osburn, Idaho 83849
208 512 4555

Checks should be made out to:
“1910 Firefighters Memorial”
and mailed to:

1910 Fire Commemoration Committee
Historic Silver Valley Chamber of Commerce
10 Station Ave.
Kellogg, ID  83839

Information about Ranger Edward Pulaski is below-
.

From the town of Wallace, Idaho [in1910] he led a group of men into the woods to meet the fire, and other crews were dispatched elsewhere. But no one was aware of the fire’s true intensity. Huge walls of tremendous flame and heat were racing up and down the terrain of hills and valleys, consuming everything in their path. Pulaski’s crew, like many others, became trapped by the firestorm. Realizing that the fire could not be outrun, he was able to quickly round up all 45 of his men and lead them to an old abandoned mine shaft that he knew from his mining days. With suffocating heat and smoke entering the mine, Pulaski ordered the panicked men to lie down, threatening to shoot [with the revolver he carried] anyone who tried to leave. Eventually, they all passed out from the heat and lack of fresh air, but the following morning all but five awoke and made their way back to Wallace. Pulaski is considered a true hero in firefighting lore for this feat.

Drawing on his firefighting experience, Pulaski the following year devised a special tool. Tired of carrying two separate implements to fight a forest fire, one to chop and one to hoe, he combined an axe and a grub hoe. Now he could chop with one side, turn it, and hoe the ground with the other. It soon went into production and became popular throughout the country and became known as the Pulaski Tool. To this day it is still in use as basic firefighting equipment. He never filed for a patent on the implement that bears his name, so he never realized any income from it. He inquired about it in 1914, but gave up on the idea, saying he did “not intend on spending the money necessary to procure the patent.”

Here is a description of the event in Pulaski’s own words:

The mine timbers at the mouth of the tunnel caught fire, so I stood up at the entrance and hung wet blankets over the opening, trying to keep the flames back by filling my hat with water, which fortunately was in the mine, and throwing it on the burning timbers. The men were in a panic of fear, some crying, some praying. Many of them soon became unconscious from the terrible heat, smoke and fire gas … I, too, finally sank down unconscious. I do not know how long I was in this condition, but it must have been for hours. I remember hearing a man say, ‘Come outside, boys, the boss is dead.’ I replied, “Like hell he is.” I raised myself and felt fresh air circulating through the mine. The men were all becoming conscious. It was five o’clock in the morning.

Shoes burned off we had to make our way over burning logs and through smoking debris. When walking failed us we crawled on our hands and knees. How we got down I hardly know. We were in a terrible condition, all of us hurt or burned. I was blind and my hands were burned from trying to keep the fire out of the tunnel. Our shoes were burned off our feet and our clothes were in parched rags.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

3 thoughts on “Fund-raising for memorials for 1910 fire fatalities”

  1. Anybody know where the mine shaft is where Ed Pulaski was trapped. 10 years ago I stopped in Wallace to find it and nobody knew where it was.

  2. The trail head is located approximately half mile up Placer Cr. The trail head is clearly marked, with a parking area and rest-rooms. The adit is approximately 2 miles up the West Fork of Placer Cr. (hour hike if you stop to view the interpretive signs). Plans are currently in the work to restore the mine entrance (burnt mine timbers, etc.)and construct a new viewing platform. You can go to: http://www.pulaski-project.org/ for more info on the trail.

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