Flames and Courage, Saga of the 1910 Fires
By Helen Meadows and Sandra Gubel
Illustrations by Marjorie Griffin
This is a timely historical children’s book titled “Flames and Courage, Saga of The 1910 Fires”
– a combination of vivid, easy-to-understand text and lavish and historically-accurate illustrations – was announced this week by the Sanders County Historical Society, which issued the book in cooperation with Stoneydale Press Publishing Company of Stevensville. “Flames and Courage, Saga of The 1910 Fires”
is a 148-page, 8½ by 11-inch book locally produced by members of the Sanders County Historical Society under a Title III grant from the Sanders County Commissioners. It was written by Helen Meadows and Sandra Gubel and illustrated by Marjorie Griffin with nearly 100 illustrations depicting the era in which the fire occurred. Mrs. Griffin also did the book’s stunning color cover illustration. The book was edited by Maria Minemyer.
The book tells the story of the 1910 fires from a much different perspective than previous works, most of which told of the historic and catastrophic fire from an outside point-of-view. This book also tells the story of how local people, men, women and children, coped with the fires and the overwhelming threat to their lives that it represented.
“The fires of 1910 hold a deep fascination for residents in Sanders County and surrounding areas, as the fires had a direct effect here,” author Helen Meadows said. “In view of the past few years when fire levels have been high, people wonder if it’ll be ‘another year like 1910' and, thanks to the county commissioners, we’ve had the opportunity to explain where the fires occurred, what caused them, and what other conditions were in place at the time.”
The book is presented in two perspectives – that of the entire community and, then, personally through the eyes of a local girl, Angie Thompson, who lived through the fires. Her narrative starts and ends each chapter and readers can easily discover how the people felt as the fires roared through their lives. The second perspective deal with the community overview: life in 1910, the beginnings of the Forest Service, the role of the railroad, fire accounts, homesteaders, townspeople and casualties. The book also tells what happened after the fires and the efforts to rebuild lives and rehabilitate the burned land, as well as dealing with the lasting legacy of the fires.
“Fortunately, much has been written over the years about the 1910 fires that burned an area 260 miles long and 200 miles wide in western Montana and northern Idaho and took at least 85 lives,” author Meadows said, “so we were able to glean a wealth of information about the catastrophic fire that aroused a nation’s passion, but very little of what’s available looked into how the local residents and others coped with and either perished or survived the fires.”
The 1910 fires set a standard by which all wildfires have been judged for almost a century now. While fires throughout the region that year had simmered through the months of May, June and July, in mid-August they reached full boil and literally “blew the lid off”. In a little over six hours the fires scorched western Montana and northern Idaho as it burned so fast and furious in such a short period of time that the nation was shocked. The fires crossed mountain ranges in three states from near the Canadian border to southern Idaho, burning out homesteads, knocking out railroad trestles, incinerating forest, killing wildlife and domestic livestock, smoking up the entire horizon, and killing scores of people.
Headlines at the time screamed: “Western Montana Forests, With Small Towns, Vanishing” – “Awful Fires Rage From British Columbia to Oregon Line” – Forty in Tunnel During Fire”. August 1910 newspaper headlines screamed the news about the 1910 fires sweeping through the Northwest.
“Flames and Courage, Saga of the 1910 Fires”
was released in 8½ by 11-inch softcover format. 148 pages, with numerous illustrations throughout.
ISBN 1-931291-58-6 Flames and Courage – $19.95