Editor’s note: This post borrows today’s weekly Idaho history column, written by Syd Albright, for the COEUR D’ALENE NEWS-PRESS. For more on the Big Burn, incidentally, see here. Or, perhaps on one of our cooler summer days, hike the Pulaski Tunnel Trail just south of Wallace!
Some call it “The Forgotten Fire.” On Oct. 8, 1871, a huge fire burned 1.2 million acres in and around Peshtigo, Wis. One report said, “A firestorm is called nature’s nuclear explosion. Here’s a wall of flame a mile high, five miles wide, traveling 90 to 100 miles per hour, hotter than a crematorium, turning sand into glass.” Varying reports say from 1,200 to 2,500 people perished in that fire, making it the deadliest in American history.
On that same day, the Great Chicago Fire raged, as well as fires in Holland, Manistee and Port Huron, Mich.
It was a busy time for Idaho in 1910. The Great Fire in the north incinerated 3 million acres of valuable forest, killing people and wiping out whole communities. Prohibition was in force and the feds were flexing their muscles with new search and seizure laws to enforce it.