Thursday, August 21, 2014


Rocky Mountain Region Bulletin - Blackwater Fire 1937
On August 21, 1937, the tragic Blackwater Fire caused the death of 15 firefighters, burning approximately 1,700 acres of Shoshone National Forest land, near Cody, Wyoming.

An electrical storm occurred in the general vicinity of Blackwater Creek on Wednesday, August 18th causing a fire, which was not detected until August 20th. At the time of detection, the fire appeared to be only 2 acres in size and was located in the drainage bottom. By the evening of Friday, August 20th, the fire had grown to approximately 200 acres and there were 58 men and 7 overhead constructing fireline in an orderly manner and with good speed. Early Saturday morning the man-power was about evenly distributed along the two main flanks of the fire. As more crews arrived and line construction advanced to the east on the hottest section of fireline, a blowup of the fire occurred at approximately 1545 caused by the combination of an undiscovered "spot" and the passage of a dry cold front. In this conflagration, 9 deaths occurred directly. Six additional men were so badly burned that death ensued, and 38 additional men suffered injuries.
Blackwater Fire 1937

Preliminary reports on this lightning fire showed that initial action was vigorous; quite remarkably so, considering the remote location of the fire and that the Shoshone National Forest was considered a low-danger forest. The forest didn't even have lookout stations. Up until 1939, the Blackwater Fire was the largest loss of life from a single national forest fire since 1910.

The Blackwater Fire was the first fatality fire to have significant investigation and study of the event done immediately after the tragedy. This analysis of the fire eventually led to the development of the smokejumper program, a management action to address the time delay problems encountered for crews responding to the fire.

In memory of
~ Alfred G. Clayton, Ranger
~ James T. Saban, Technical Foreman
~ Rex A. Hale, Jr. Assistant to the Technician
~ Paul E. Tyrrell, Jr. Forester
~ Billy Lea, Bureau of Public Roads Crewman
~ Clyde Allen
~ Roy Bevins
~ Ambrogio Garcia
~ John B Gerdes
~ Will C. Griffith
~ Mack T. Mayabb
~ George Rodgers
~ Ernest Seelke
~ Rubin Sherry William Whitlock

Honor through learning and visit the Staff Ride Library.


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