Incident Name: South Baldy Mountain, Kaniksu National Forest (now the Colville NF), Washington
Personnel: Paul Blickensdorfer
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Position: Forest Service Lookout
Summary: On July 12, 1925, Paul Blickensdorfer -- lookout at South Baldy Ranger Station north of Priest Lake and a student at University of Idaho -- was killed by a lightning strike on the stovepipe of the lookout cabin as he slept. He was sleeping on the floor in front of the woodstove, having given up his bed to visiting forest officials.
South Baldy Lookout Cabin circa 1915, Curt McEwan photo
Fire Lookout on South Baldy Mountain on the Colville NF
EARLY-DAY RANGER IN THE PRIEST LAKE COUNTRY
By Henry A. Peterson
During 1925 while I was on Cuban Hill, the upper part of the Upper Westbranch drainage was burned over by a series of fires set by a dry lightning storm. On the day prior to this storm, District Ranger Murray and Assistant Forest Supervisor Francis Carroll were locating trail in the vicinity of South Baldy lookout and decided to spend the night at the lookout. A forestry student by the name of Blickensderfer was the lookout and Bill Blake, a native in the Bear Paw country, was the smokechaser. Since Murray and Carroll had hiked all day, Blickensderfer and Blake insisted that they sleep on the regular bunks. Blickensderfer and Blake slept on the floor with Blickensderfer next to and in front of the stove. Lookout buildings had no lightning protection those days. During the night a bolt of lightning came down the stovepipe, jumped to the floor under where Blickensderfer was sleeping, killing him instantly. Murray and Carroll gave artificial respiration instantly and worked over him until it was evident that nothing could revive him. Blake was not hurt and immediately grabbed his pack and controlled three fires before returning to the lookout. A bronze plaque was later cemented to a rock near the lookout building and the present Blickensderfer Creek was named in his honor. This storm was also the cause of the fires, which burned over the upper part of the Upper Westbranch drainage. Also caused the death of two other men. Always Remember Jackson and Gleason
One afternoon on a steep south slope, south of the present Gleason Mountain, the fire picked up in fury. The overhead, fearing a crown fire, decided to remove the crew to safety and ordered all the men to follow.
Two men, Jackson and Gleason, decided there was a safer way out and refused to follow. Their bodies were later found where they had been trapped by the crown fire while trying to gain the ridge top.
The present Gleason Mountain and Jackson Mountain were named in honor of these men. As I recall, both were transient firefighters. I believe both were laid to rest in the Priest River Cemetery.
More of Paul Blickensdorfer's story
- Washington Death Certificate: Paul Blickensdorfer
- Note: Looking back through the familysearch archivers it looks like the family name was spelled Blickendoerfer. It explains why the creek name and the death certificate name are different. One dropped the o and one dropped the e.
Blickensderfer Creek, Pend Oreille, WA
Contributors to this article: Brett Rogers
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