"Big Blowup" webpage marks centennial of 1910 Fires

By James Lewis on May 4, 2010

On August 20-21, 1910, fires driven by gale-force winds consumed 3 million acres, several towns, and at least 85 lives in the Montana, Idaho, and Washington.  Known as “The Big Blowup,” no other event in U.S. Forest Service history has had a greater impact on the agency.  Heroes were made, legends were born, and the agency was changed forever.

The Forest History Society is marking the centennial of the 1910 fires with a website dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of that seminal event.  Many documents being made available are hard-to-find articles written by the men who lived through the fire and were deeply affected by it.  Men like Ed Pulaski, Bill Greeley, “Gus” Silcox, Elers Koch, and E.T. Allen, to name a few.

A sampling of images from the FHS collection relating to the Big Blowup. Images include newspaper clippings, photos of the fire-ravaged land, and of Ed Pulaski.

Drawing from the extensive holdings of the Forest History Society, our crack staff has created a new section of our U.S. Forest Service History webpages about the history and legacy of the 1910 Fires.  (You’ll also find a revised version of the Mann Gulch page, which we’ve blogged about here and here, under the Famous Fires section.)  On the Big Blowup page you will find an overview essay of the event and numerous items such as:

  • a firsthand account of the ordeal by Ed Pulaski and others
  • historical documents, photographs, and maps
  • PDFs of books and essays that place the event in historical context
  • reflections on the fire’s impact on land management and fire policy
  • an original essay by fire historian Stephen Pyne, author of Year of the Fires
  • a bibliography of books and articles about the Big Blowup

You can find all of our outstanding resources on the Big Blowup at: www.foresthistory.org/1910fires.htm.