East Portal in Mineral County, Montana — The American West (Mountains)
A Battle That Could Not Be Won
“With the cinders and ashes falling all around him, and so dark that he could not see his horse’s head at three o’clock in the afternoon, [Barringer] rode up to the face of the fire…[and] collected his scattered crews….” - Elers Koch, Forest Supervisor
Only five years old when the fires struck, the fledgling U.S. Forest Service had no organized fire crews, relying instead on the young rangers committed to protecting the nation’s new National Forests. They hired any able-bodied man from the logging and railroad crews, even knocked on doors to beg men to join the fight. They recruited immigrants right off the trains and gathered inmates from local jails.
It was never enough. The fires chased men from camps, blinded their horses and blocked their escapes. Crews huddled in creek bottoms and holes in the ground and hid in caves desperately seeking a place to save themselves from the deadly heat and gas in the scorching fire. These young courageous men did all they could but were fighting against a force of nature in a battle that could not be won.
As you see the burned snags and open meadows that now exist where hearty stands of trees were consumed in the inferno, remember those brave men. They walked here, too.
Erected 2010 by Lolo National
Location. 47° 23.789′ N, 115° 38.095′ W. Marker is in East Portal, Montana, in Mineral County. Marker can be reached from Rainy Creek Road (Federal Road 506) 2 miles south of Exit 5 (Taft) (Interstate 90). Click for map. Located at the Route of the Hiawatha Trailhead. Marker is in this post office area: Saltese MT 59867, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Pluck and Good Fortune (here, next to this marker); When the Mountains Roared (here, next to this marker); An Unlikely Safe Haven (a few steps from this marker); Life Along the Line (a few steps from this marker); Substation 13 (a few steps from this marker); Building From the Ashes (a few steps from this marker); Douse the Flames and Climb Aboard (within shouting distance of this marker); The Route of the Hiawatha (within shouting distance of this marker). Click for a list of all markers in East Portal.
More about this marker. On the bottom is a photo with the caption, "Some call it “The Big Blowup.” On August 20 and 21, 1910, a cold front pushed gale force winds through the region whipping individual fires into massive blazes that consumed everything in their path, including the nearby location of what once was the town of Taft." photo: Archives
Also see . . .
1. 1910 Fire Commemoration Information Site. US Forest Service (Submitted on August 3, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
2. U.S. Forest Service History - The 1910 Fires. The Forest History Society (Submitted on August 3, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
3. The West is Burning Up! The 1910 Fire. By Jim Petersen, Evergreen Magazine, Winter Edition 1994-1995 (Submitted on August 3, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
Categories. • Disasters •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 466 times since then and 99 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.