Moose Lake Fire Article, Part 1

This article comes from The Askov American, printed October 17, 1918.
Please be aware that the article describes the incidents surrounding the death of one of the victims of the fire, and so may be disturbing to some people. If you are sensitive to this kind of story, please stop after the second section and scroll down to the bottom to continue.


Loss of Life in Entire District is Over 1,000 --- Property Damage Runs Into Millions --- The City of Cloquet Laid in Ruins --- Many Farm Homes Burned in Pine County

The greatest fire in the history of Minnesota has swept the northeastern part of the state the past few days. The Hinckley fire of 24 years ago - still fresh in the memory of old settlers - was small compared to this, and the terrible tornado at Tyler of only a few weeks ago is entirely outshadowed, both as to the loss of human life and property damage.
The fire commenced Saturday, Oct. 12th - a day which will go down in the history of Minnesota. With a gale of 60 miles an hour the fire had a splendid opportunity to spread. It appears that the fire originated at Taft, a small village 20 miles north of Duluth, but there were also loca fires thruout the district which soon developed with the strong wind. The greater part of the damage was done Saturday night when about a dozen villages were laid in ruins, chief among which were Cloquet and Moose Lake. Cloquet, a city of 9,000 inhabitants was burned to the ground but only a few lives lost. The inhabitants were moved to Duluth on four special trains, box cars, coal cars, flat cars and anything available being used. But poor Moose Lake - that is where the greatest suffering occured. The people there did not get away and the result is that about 500 lives were lost in and around that village, as well as the entire vicinity being laid in ruins.
The total number of dead in the forest fire district will be more than 1,000. Reports from Adjutant General W.F. Rhinow show that 800 bodies have been recovered or located in the woods. Of these 500 are in the Moose Lake district, 200 in the Duluth district and 100 at Cloquet.

Pine County's Loss.

Altho Pine County is indeed fortunate compared to northern neighboring counties, there was one life lost - at Bruno - and the property damage here will run up into several hundred thousand dollars. The center of Pine County - a line from Askov to Cloverton is the southern boundary of the great fire and south of this line there is no damage done.
Kerrick is the only village in Pine County visited by the fire where several residences on the west side of the track were burned.

One Fire Victim at Bruno.

Mrs. Ray Fairchild living five miles east of Bruno, was burned to death in her home, her body being charred. Mr. Fairchild had been fighting fire near their home when all of a sudden the flames burst forth and everything was on fire. A hay stack near the house was one mass of flames. This was blown onto the house and Mr. Fairchild immediately ran to save his wife and four year old son. They took some water soaked blankets and made for the door. In attempting to open the door Mrs. Fairchild pulled out the knob and the only other place of exit was a window. Mr. Fairchild pulled a bed over to a window and with the child in hisarms jumped thru and ran. Upon discovering that his wife did not follow he turned back but could do nothing as the house was then one mass of flames.

Ran Thru Fire.

With the child in his arms, Mr. Fairchild ran 1 1/4 miles to the Sandy Douglas place. Finding nobody at home he tried to kick open the door, intending to get in and telephone for help. But he was too weak to do this and fell in his attempt to do so. He then took a drink out of the water trough and with the child in his arms hurried on to the next farm home. Geo. L. Bristol, a half mile distant, where the folks were home and help was immediately summoned.
It is believed that of the 1 3/4 miles Mr. Fairchild ran, 3/4 of a mile was thru smoke and flames. His eyes were entirely swelled shut from the heat and for the balance of the distance he could not see. Several times he rolled on the ground with the child in order to put out the flames on their clothing. When they arrived at the Bristol home everything but about half of his undershirt was burned off Mr. Fairchild. Both he and the child will recover, altho Mr. Fairchild was dangerously ill, his face being terribly swollen. His eye sight however was not affected. The child was not burned as badly, it being protected by its father. Mrs. Fairchild, as above mentioned, lost her life in their home.

Continue on to part two of the article

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Copyright 2008 by Melissa Warner