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Incident Name: Cloquet Fire, the fires of Autumn 1918
Date: 10/12/1918
Personnel: more than 559 lives lost
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Summary: The Colquet-Moose Lake forest fire of October 12-15 was one of the most destructive forest fires in Minnesota's recorded history. Like most other major fires, this one took place on cutover land - the stumps and waste that remained after the great pine forests of northeastern Minnesota were harvested for lumber.

Consisting of fire or six major fires and several smaller ones, the Cloquet - Moose Lake fire started during a severe drought in the fall of 1918. It burned 390 square miles. Official reports listed 453 people killed. Years later in 1929, the State erected a monument in the Riverside Cemetery, in Moose Lake, commemorating the residents who lost their lives. Lark portions of Cloquet, then known as "the white pine capitol of the world," burned completely. Approximately 8,000 inhabitants evacuated ahead of the oncoming flames. The fire reached the east side of Duluth and burned homes in several neighborhoods before it stopped.

Massive public and private relief efforts helped survivors get back on their feet, but efforts in the courts to secure compensation for the damages were unsuccessful. In 1935, after a long struggle, federal legislation was approved to pay parts of the victims' claims.

The events of 1918 were etched into the memories of people who lived through them, and the fire was always a reference point when talking about the past. Things were described as being ether "before the fire" or "after the fire."

To learn more, including stories of those who lived through the tragedy, read "The Fires of Autumn: the Cloquet-Moose Lake Disaster of 1918" by Francis M. Carroll and Franklin R. Raiter, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 1990.

This is the text of Historical marker commemorating the Cloquet - Moose Lake Fire of the fall of 1918. (Map Location of the Memorial Plaque at bottom of page.)

 

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Maps

Cloquet, MN

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

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Media Articles and Reports

  • Monday, Oct. 14, 1918: Hundreds die in Cloquet fire

    October 1918 must have felt apocalyptic to many Minnesotans. Lists of servicemen killed in the bloody Great War filled a column a day in the local papers. The deadly Spanish flu was filling hospitals and emptying churches, theaters and dance halls. Then, on Oct. 12 and 13, huge fires exploded in the forests of central Minnesota and swept east toward Lake Superior, incinerating everything in their path. The final toll: 453 people killed, 85 seriously burned, 1,500 square miles blackened, 11,382 families displaced and 10 towns destroyed, including Cloquet, Kettle River and Moose Lake... (More at link.)

  • Flames Death Toll 1,000 in Northern Minnesota; Moose Lake, Cloquet and 8 Other Towns Destroyed
      Territory 21 Miles Wide Swept; Property Loss Up in Millions

    Survivors Relate Graphic Tales of Many Refugees Stricken as They Seek Safety

    Nearly 1,000 persons are now believed to have lost their lives in the blasts of flame that drove Saturday and yesterday over Northern Minnesota forests in an area that spreads from Duluth to Brainerd, Bemidji, Aitkin, Cloquet and Moose Lake.

    Property worth millions of dollars was destroyed, ten villages were obliterated, 15,000 persons were made homeless, many of them penniless. Duluth, itself heavily damaged by the flames, was last night a city of thousands of refugees... (More at the link)

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

Memorial Plaque: Photo posted on Wikipedia

Memorial Plaque Location (Text on Plaque at the top of the page.)

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