Incident Name: Hinckley Fire of 1894
Date: September 1, 1894
Personnel: hundreds of lives lost
Agency/Organization: volunteers, citizens
The Hinckley Fire burned at least 200,000 - 250,000 acres including the Minnesota towns of Hinckley, Mission Creek, Brook Park and Sandstone. At a minimum it took an estimated 418 lives in a very short time, but scholars believe the number probably was closer to 800.
There had been a two month drought and wood waste and slash from logging the pine forests had been left on the ground. Slash fires that were intentionally set were burning in some logging camps. Survivors also describe fires that typically burned in the region in the fall that were inadvertently started by trains and often found ready fuel.
On September 1, 1894 it was hot and there was a temperature inversion, trapping heat, smoke and gasses under cool air above. When several larger fires joined and broke through the inversion, cooler air fed the flames of large and small fires alike and created a vortex of flame. The ensuing firestorm -- fed by tornadic winds -- gobbled up woods, farms, towns and lives alike. The St Paul, Duluth and Eastern Minnesota trains and their crews played a part in saving many people. Several hundred Hinckley townspeople and a family cow took refuge and survived in a gravel pit beside Hinckley's Eastern Minnesota depot. Other families began to evacuate earlier by train, and when the fire overtook them, took refuge in the mudhole which had the day before been Skunk Lake. Yet others got on a train headed for Pine City and escaped the flames. The stories of the Hinckley survivors are gripping.
- NY Times on the Hinckley Fire, takes you to the free pdf download of the historical September 2 and September 3, 1894. articles: Hundreds Perish in Forest Fires
- The Forest Fires in America, Appaling loss of life, Towns destroyed, Hundreds burned to death; Sept 4, 1894, The Glasgow Herald
- The Neihart Herald, September 8, 1894, a Neihart Montana newspaper that has a fairly complete summary of the loss of towns and lives in Minnesota: 500 Burned to Death
- The Hinckley Fire: Stories from the Hinckley Fire Survivors, by Antone A. Anderson and Clara Anderson McDermott, New York, Comet Press Books, 1954, reprinted in 1993 by the Hinckley Fire Centennial Committee and the Hinckley Lions' Club
- Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894 by Daniel James Brown, Harper Perennial, 2007.
- Minnesota Historical Society has many excellent resources for further research
- Minnesota Historical Society Photo Archive
- Wikipedia: Great Hinckley Fire
- From the Ashes: The Story of the Hinckley Fire of 1894 by Grace Stageberg Swenson. St. Cloud, MN; North Star Press of St. Cloud, 1988
- The Great Hinckley Fire, by Clark C. Peterson. Smithtown, N.Y.: Exposition Press, 1980.
- John Blair and the Great Hinckley Fire, by Josephine Nobisso, illustrated by Ted Rose. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000; For grades 1-4 and adults who want to know the story through the eyes of an African-American railway porter.
- Weather History: The Great Hinckley Fire of 1894 on YouTube, posted 9/29/2011, about 2 min long
- Photo images of the Hinckley Fire
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