Sunday, August 12, 2012

Blackwater Fire Celebrates 75th Anniversary

The Clayton Gulch Memorial is on the ridge to the north and just above the gulch where the actual fatality site is located. This is the second memorial built in 1938 by the CCCs.


The Blackwater fire was started by lightning on August 18, 1937, in the Blackwater drainage, Wapiti Ranger District, of the Shoshone National Forest. Three days later, the fire that initially appeared manageable would claim the lives of 15 men, injure 38 more, and scorch over 1,200 acres of the Shoshone National Forest.

The 15 firefighters lost on August 21, 1937 represented the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Bureau of Public Roads, and the Forest Service. They were Alfred G. Clayton, Rex A. Hale, Paul E. Tyrell, Billy Lea, Clyde Allen, Roy Bevens, Ambrocio Garza, John B. Gerdes, Will C. Griffith, Mack T. Mayabb, George E. Rodgers, James T. Saban, Ernest R. Seelke, Rubin Sherry, and William Whitlock.

Monuments and past events

On August 21, 1939, a ceremony was held to dedicate the Firefighter Memorial, located on U S Highway 14/16/20, and the Clayton Gulch Marker, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

In August 1964, the Wyoming Business and Professional Women dedicated the Blackwater Memorial National Forest.

In 1979, the Forest Service designated Blackwater Trail as the Blackwater National Recreation Trail. The six-mile trail was used by the firefighters to access the Blackwater fire in 1937. The trail begins near the Firefighter Memorial and continues to the sites of the Clayton Gulch marker and the plaque at Post Point.

In October 1980, the Forest Service dedicated the Blackwater Pond picnic area, located just behind the Firefighter Memorial.

In July 1987, the Civilian Conservation Corps held a reunion and 50th anniversary rededication ceremony.

Activities commemorating the 75th anniversary of the fire
  • Friday, August 17- Wednesday, August 22, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    • Archival materials from 1937 displayed at Wapiti Wayside
  • Sunday, August 19, 2012, 9:00 a.m. – approx. 4:00 p.m.
    • Hike to the Clayton Gulch memorial guided by Forest Service members. 
  •  Monday, August 20, 2012, 4:00 p.m.
    • Private picnic at the Wapiti Ranger Station to honor family members of 15 firefighters who lost their lives on August 21, 1937.
  • Tuesday, August 21, 2012, 10:00 a.m.
    • Ceremony and wreath laying commemorating the 75th anniversary, at the roadside Blackwater Firefighter Memorial
Thanks to the US Forest Service for this contribution.
Point of contact: Kristie Salzmann – work: 307.578.5190, cell: 307.250.0418, or
See the Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program Staff Ride Library for more information on the Blackwater fire.

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