Moose Lake, Cloquet, MN Terrible Fires, Oct 1918

Burned Train at Moose Lake Ruins Ruins Ruins Fire Hall Ruins Moose Lake MINN Fire 10-12-1918 3.jpg Moose Lake MINN Fire 10-12-1918 4.jpg Moose Lake MINN Fire 10-12-1918 5.jpg





Moose Lake, Minn., Oct. 14. -- Men and women of the Moose Lake district of Minnesota, driven by fire from their homes, penniless, many of them wearing clothing furnished by charitable relief workers, tonight took up the search for the dead.
Barred by the military authorities from leaving the city they wandered between long lines of bodies in the improvished morgues here, searching for loved ones who have not been heard from since the forest fires laid waste this section of Minnesota and a portion of northern Wisconsin four days ago. Motor trucks arriving at frequent intervals brought in more and more bodies and the sad vigil of the watchers continued throughout the night.

May Reach 1000.
During the past twenty-four hours, the bodies of three hundred victims have been found in the charred No Man's land which before the fire formed the smiling shores of Moose lake and Kettle river. The majority of the bodies, some of which were taken to Duluth, were so badly charred that identification will be difficult. Searchers have been on duty for ten hours but there has been as yet no slackening of the pace of shortening at intervals at which the bodies are brought in. Adjutant General RHINOW tonight estimated that the number of dead in the Moose lake Kettle river regions alone might reach 500. These with the other dead from adjoining regions will, it is believed, swell the list of dead to near the 1,000 mark.
Improvised hospitals here and the permanent institutions at Duluth, are caring for thousands of more or less injured refugees many of whom are in a critical condition.

Double Rescue Force.
The force of rescue workers will be doubled tomorrow, General RHINOW said. Up to this time only the main roads have been explored. It has been impossible to search the great areas of farm land laid waste by the fire that search is expected to result in the finding of hundreds more victims in the ruins of their destroyed homes. Many persons, also are believed to have been drowned in lakes in which they took refuge from the terrific heat, thinking the fire might pass by them. Many refuges here, in a serious condition from exposure, said they stood for hours in ice cold water while the flames raged above them.
Rural residents, refugees say, were given but a moment's warning before the firey hurricane swept down upon them. A pall of smoke had hung over the countryside for hours and a majority believed the holocaust to be merely the "fall fires" which are annual occurrences. When the danger became apparent they rushed into cellars or huddled together where ever a slight depression in the ground seemed to promise protection. Whole families have been found suffocated, their bodies burned to a crisp. In a majority of cases, physicians say, death was caused by suffocation, and was mercifully preceded by unconsciousness.

Great Property Loss.
Officials in charge of relief work still are unable to make an accurate estimate of the material damage resulting from the fire. It was said, however, that in this district alone, fifty square miles have been stripped clean of timber, crops, live stock and human habitation.
No further danger is anticipated although the conflagration continues in isolated areas. Fire south and southwest of Cass Lake, driven by a high wind, were said to be gaining to-night with the city directly in the path of the flames, but it was believed efforts of the fire fighters would prevent the fires from attaining serious proportions.

Duluth, Minn., Oct. 14. -- Information reaching here tonight from fire swept northeastern Minnesota tended to confirm reports that nearly 1,000 persons lost their lives in the forest fires of Saturday and Sunday in this section. At Moose Lake and vicinity alone the death list is expected to reach 500.
Reports from other districts are expected to swell the totals.
There is little danger of the flames breaking out afresh if weather conditions hold. A slight wind is blowing off Lake Superior and whatever fires are revived will be blown back over burned sections.
In the vicinity of Cass Lake, the western edge of the fire zone, the wind tonight revived and the fires started again. However, the town was believed not to be in any immediate danger.

Destroyed 21 Towns.
Officials said at least twenty-four hours more will be required before an accurate figure can be placed on the loss of life and property. Every hour brings additional bodies to the morgues at Moose Lake, Colquet, Altkin and Duluth. Relief workers are just beginning to learn the full extent of the damage. Latest advices tell of the destruction of twenty-one towns and devastation of nearly a hundred square miles of timber and farm land.
Duluth's overcrowded morgues today presented a pitiful scene of activity. During the day hundreds of persons passed from one undertaking establishment to another in search of some missing relative or friend. In the majority of cases identification was accomplished.
Between Lawyer and Moose Lake where the fire raged fiercest through the jack pine country, heaps of bodies are being found. Thirty bodies were found in one root cellar.

Losses Near Colquet.[sic]
In the direction of Colquet, eighteen bodies had been found tonight and rescuers believe more than one hundred others still are in the neighborhood. Near Carlton eighteen were recovered today from the ruins of a school.
The monetary loss at Colquet, according to the estimate of business men of that city was $12,000,000. No estimate can be made of the loss in other sections.
General RHINOW said tonight rescue work is progressing as rapidly as possible and that all wounded will be cared for before tomorrow morning. Governor BURNQUIST and General RHINOW arrived here tonight and immediately went into conference with officers of the local Red Cross and public safety commission. Following the conference committees were appointed to attend to refugees relief and to consider means of raising money for rehabilitation of fames and rebuilding of towns.

The Ogden Examiner Utah 1918-10-15


Moose Lake Fires

My great- grandfather's sister ran away from her husband in Upper Michigan, supposedly to the area of these fires. She returned a few times to visit her brothers and son, but then the visits and letters stopped suddenly around the time of these fires.

Is there a reasonably complete list of the dead from these fires? Her name was Eva Barnett Johnson... I suppose as a relatively transient person she might have ended up listed as "unknown woman." Or maybe she was using an alias to begin with, as her husband had some legal stuff going against her and she told some people (untruthfully, I think) that she was living in western Canada.

Anyway I was curious if a list existed.

Post Card

Philip, My Mother survived the fire by running into the lake. I have a letter my Mother wrote about the fire, but I have not found it as of this email. My Mother was born Jan 4, 1910 and lived in moose Lake. Thank you for sending a copy of the post card. David.


have been involved with the Fires many years, compiled book called Firebeast & working on reprint

1918 fire postcard

i would love to have a copy of that postcard. it would be very interesting to see it. could you please send me one to my email address> thank you very much. donna

postcard copy

I am taking my 4 grandchildren to meet with a lady who survived the Moose Lake fire tomorrow, she is from Kettle River and her name is Lucy. I recently met her, and I am interseted in the hisstory of the fire. I would like a postcard. thanks.

thank you Gene

My suggestion would be to contact the County Barnum is located in and the Town of Barnum itself (library) .. maybe they can help you

Moose Lake Fire

Stu, I appreciate your post of the info on the Moose Lake Fire. My father's uncle's family lived east of Barnum at that time. Dad's uncle had just died that summer and his widow lived on the farm east of Barnum. Is there any way to find out if that area was burned?
Thank you,
Gene Blomquist

thank you

if you would like my email is stubear0430@juno.com
thank you

Moose Lake, Minnesota fire 1918

Hello. I have a post card which is postmarked Nov. 24, 1919. It is a photograph of downtown Moose Lake showing burned out buildings, an old roadster automobile, and (what I believe to be) the Minnesota Infantry National Guard with rifles on their shoulders marching down the street.
The printed text reads Moose Lake Fire, Oct. 12, 1918. If you would like a copy of this postcard please send me your email address and I will be happy to send one to you.


Philip Gandrud
Sacred Heart, Minnesota