On Saturday, the 20th of August in 1910, the largest fire in recorded U.S. history took out three million acres in the American Northwest. That summer had been hot and dry and there were thousands of fires already burning in the forests of Washington, Idaho and Montana.
The day before, the U.S. Forest Service admitted that the task of controlling the fires was overwhelming and had asked for help from the soldiers at Fort Harrison in Helena. A balloonist came up with a plan to set off dynamite at 5,000 feet, which would “act as lightning and thunder which would in turn bring on the rains.” But he only reached 1,600 feet before the smoke became too thick for him to continue.
Then a storm came in and hurricane-force winds whipped the smaller fires into a blazing inferno.
On the afternoon of Saturday, August 20 the worst fears of residents of the inland Northwest were realized. A hurricane of wind and flames roared across the land, the mountains and the little tinder-dry villages forcing a mass exodus from the area. Many rode, ran and walked to Missoula which became the refugee headquarters.
On a bulletin board next to the Missoulian newspaper offices an update of the holocaust was posted …after every phone call from the ravaged zone. That information also went directly into the daily paper from which is drawn the first published reports of the inferno. The banner headline of the paper’s front page on Sunday, August 21 blared: FOREST FIRES IN MERCILESS SWEEP DESTROY TOWNS IN COEUR D’ALENES.
The fire was eventually put out four days later when a further storm with heavy rains swept over the area. These days, of course, a paper like the Missoulian could just search on hashtags to get updates from the affected areas. Isn’t technology grand?
We have a real-world example which even includes Coeur D’Alene!
A hundred and one years later, on Saturday the 20th of August 2011, an electronic bulletin board known as Twitter was used to collect updates from all over the world, complete with photographs! Take a look:
Here are our brave correspondents:
You can find out what all of these great people are up to simply by checking the Saturday Scenes list which includes all participants from 2011. Adding to lists doesn’t always work from my client, so if you *aren’t* in the list, please let me know and I’ll add you right away!
If you are new and you’d like to join in, it’s easy! Just take a photograph on Saturday and send the link to @SatScenes with the location! It’s easy and fun and we love seeing new sights.