In hot, dry fire years like this one, inevitably the media harkens back to 1910–the year the west burnt. With fires starting as early as May, Idaho and Montana flames spewed smoke that billowed far out onto the plains. The biggest forest fires in history in turn helped spawn the U.S. Forest Service.
That year, just outside Whitefish, Lion Mountain raged with flames for five months. But for the 1,400 residents of the new town, the fire that threatened to reduce Whitefish to ash was actually a few years earlier–1907, to be exact–a century ago from this fire season.
At that time, Whitefish had no water system. The newly incorporated town fought the fire with a bucket brigade. They patrolled the river bank, dousing embers with water drawn from the river. Despite their efforts, several of the wooden sidewalks in town burnt.
Much like Star Meadows residents who have plans in place in case evacuation is required due the Brush Creek Fire, the young town of Whitefish had a plan, too, with a little help from Great Northern Railway. Most families packed up their gear, to be ready at a moment’s notice, and the railroad kept 40 box cars standing by to transport residents out of town.
Whitefish survived. By the time the 1910 fires broke out, the town had a water system in place–the pump, tank, and tower having been installed by January following the scary 1907 fire.
For more information on Whitefish fires, take a look at Stump Town to Ski Town.
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