1937 Blackwater Fire

1937 Blackwater Fire

Today in 1937, the fourth deadliest wildfire in the nation's history, the Blackwater Creek fire was started by a lightning strike in the pine-filled Shoshone National Forest. The fire smoldered and crept through the ground fuels for two days before it was spotted by the owners of a local hunting camp. Initially, the smoke was rising vertically from the area of Blackwater Creek, however as the rangers and CCC enrollees neared the fire the smoke and flame grew in intensity. Nightfall found some seventy firefighters working to construct a fire line around the blaze that had grown to 200 acres by 8:00 P.M. that night. Though winds were light, the canyons served to pump air to the blaze in a familiar scenario, and the forest crowned out in several places, pushing spot fires ahead of the main fire. The next day, a cold front caused a 90-degree wind shift that changed the direction of spread of the Blackwater fire, which surprised and trapped a large number of firefighters, killing 15 of them.  New CCC crews continued to arrive until at one point more than 500 men were fighting the blaze. By noon on Tuesday, August 24th the fire was listed as officially under control. In total, it covered about 2 acres and by the time it was controlled it had consumed 1,700 acres.

Killed in the Blackwater Fire:

Alfred G. Clayton

James T. Saban

Rex A. Hale

Paul E. Tyrrell

Billy Lea

John B. Gerdes

Will C. Griffith

Mack T. Mayabb

George Harold Rodgers

Roy Bevens of Smithville

Clyde Allen

Ernest Seelke

Rubin D. Sherry

William Whitlock

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