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100th Anniversary of Devastating Wildfires

One hundred years ago a spark from a passing train, the parched landscape and dry gusty winds combined to produce Minnesota's worst wildfire outbreak in state history

On October 10, 1918, a passing train's spark ignited a fire near Cloquet that smoldered for a few days. Northeast Minnesota at the time was experiencing its "driest season in 48 years," according to the U. S. Weather Bureau's official in charge, H. W. Richardson, so when gusty and dry southwest winds developed, the fire grew and spread rapidly. The peak wind measured by the Weather Bureau was 76 mph at 5:52 pm with a 5 minute wind speed of 65 mph. 

News of the oncoming fire did not reach Duluth until late afternoon on the 12th when news of the fire devouring the small town of Brookston arrived. The fire entered Duluth at the Woodland neighborhood at about 6:00 pm.

In total, 1,000 people lost their lives in the fire. The hardest hit areas were Moose Lake, Cloquet and Kettle River. Thirty-eight communities were destroyed, 250,000 acres were burned and $73 million (over a billion in today's economy) in property damage was suffered. 


There was not just a single fire, there were numerous fires spread through northeastern Minnesota as can be seen by the red colored areas in the map below.

Click map for larger view.

 Areas Devastated By 1918 Fires From MN Forest Service Report


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