Fighting Forest Fires 1902 Style
By Dick Perue
“Uncle Sam furnishes aid in putting out the destructive fires in the mountains,” reads the headline in the Aug. 29, 1902 issue of the Grand Encampment Herald.
The news item, courtesy of Grandma’s Cabin of Encampment, continues, “Col. J. F. Crawford, United States Commissioner for Wyoming, came up Friday from Saratoga to arrange for the systematic fighting of several forest fires, which have been raging in the Sierra Madre Mountains for some time past. Mr. Crawford has been corresponding with the authorities at Washington concerning the fires, asking aid from the government, and in reply, received an advice instructing him to proceed at once to Grand Encampment and send out crews to extinguish the fires. Mr. Crawford was instructed to act in an official capacity until relieved by special agents who have been ordered here.”
It further states, “Mr. Crawford appointed four men to organize crews and fight the fires to the finish. Walter Jennison was secured to look after the fires between the two forks of the Encampment River, and on Saturday went out with two crews, both day and night. The crews have been camped on the tie camp road about four miles southeast of Olson, the halfway station between Grand Encampment and the tie camp. The men have been fighting the fire near this point, which has already burned over a territory more than four miles long and about three-quarters of a mile wide. This fire has destroyed much fine timber and unless checked would have proceeded eastward four or five miles further through the green timber and parks.”
“C. L. Vagner, general manager at the tie camp, was given instructions to set his men at work on the fire in Damfino Park, near the camp. A big fire has been raging there and another along a tributary creek, which flows into the South Fork near the camp. Vagner’s men had been fighting these fires several days before receiving official notice, as the timber being destroyed covered a portion of the area included in the recent purchase of land secured by the Carbon Company,” the article says.
“Foster Kearns was instructed to look after the Beaver Creek fires and Ira B. Casteel to look after the fires east of the Big Creek Ranch. The Brush Creek fires are being fought by a crew under the direction of W.B. Harden of Saratoga,” it continues.
“The United States government defrays all expense incurred in the work of extinguishing these fires. Had the work been commenced a month ago, many thousands of dollars worth of valuable timber could have been saved. One of the most lamentable sights in wholesale destruction of property is to see ‘the whole country afire’ with no effort being put forth by Uncle Sam to stop it,” reads the article.
It concludes, “With the systematic fighting now going on, every fire should be entirely wiped out within a few days. Mr. Crawford asks the Herald to advise him at once concerning new fires, and he will send help immediately.”
With all the forest fires raging across Wyoming and the West, I thought it worthwhile to re-run this Postcard from several years ago.