These stories can also be heard Sunday mornings around 10 am on WILD 102’s “Look Back in Time” program. Each week’s radio story will be posted here on our website.
Weekly radio stories are researched, compiled, and read by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member.
August 13, 2023
On September 7, 1933, the Northern Minnesota Leader newspaper told this story about fires causing destruction in the county.
The grass and brush fires the past week have done considerable damage in this section of the state. Saturday the terrific winds made the territory in the neighborhood a literal inferno. The air was full of smoke and ashes. In the Roosevelt, Williams, and Baudette sections, hundreds of tons of hay have been destroyed, and several homes have also gone up in smoke.
Estimates place the amount of hay lost between Warroad and Salol at [over 300 tons].
Leon Wiltsie of Cedarbend has found four of his cattle dead and one alive from a herd of eleven. Adler Carrier lost all buildings and the contents of the buildings. Mr. Carrier is a bachelor and Mr. and Mrs. Gene Temple, who were making their home with him, lost all their household goods.
All the buildings on the Falsgraft place were burned to the ground, and all furniture and household goods were destroyed. The cattle went thru the fire without apparent harm.
Roy Briggs and Mr. Margouler went to save some hay Saturday and the dense smoke stalled the car in a rut. The gasoline tank exploded from the heat. Mr. Briggs, overcome by the heat and smoke, and would have burned to death had it not been for his partner, who revived him and brought him out of the danger zone.
Thousands of acres of peat are burned over, which eliminates fire hazards. In Falun and eastern Malung peat fires have burned every fall for several years and that settlement has not been much endangered by the peat fires burning there this fall. Places that have burned over in other years make splendid places for making fire breaks.
In the Roseau Lake area, there are from thirty to forty thousand dollars worth of hay in danger. From 50 to 150 men have been busy in the past three days backfiring and patrolling the danger zone.
Ole Osterlund on the caterpillar tractor and Harold Arneson on the big grader have been making trenches for fire breaks in this fertile hay area. The outfit belongs to Archie Alley. Yesterday they started a permanent fire break by cutting down the clay and covering the peat.
P.G. Pederson, the fire warden for the organized district, is in charge with the aid of four state appraisers from the Department of Land and Minerals. Calls have been made for firefighters, and splendid response has resulted.
Mrs. Miovac and the girls have been doing a fine job in feeding the fire fighters, working almost night and day.
Calls for provisions are made to the village and delivery made with automobiles to keep the fighters from going hungry.
From every section where there is fire come the reports of splendid cooperation by all, which is as it should be. Everyone should do his best to save as much property as possible.
One week later, in the September 14, 1933, edition of the Leader, a follow-up report of the fires was published. This is what was written.
The peat fires north of Roseau Lake have been checked and held in bounds for more than a week with the aid of volunteers and men hired with funds from the Forestry Department. By far, the most manual labor has been done by volunteers, many of whom had hay in the territory, but a great many who had no hay there also volunteered, and all together these forces with the help of the Alley caterpillar tractor and grader and the shovel from the highway department have stopped the fire. These machines have completed a fire break along a four-mile front also.
No one who does not know the conditions where the fire is can realize how much work has been done. The peat is at seven feet, and very little of it is less than two feet. Trenches have been made for about five miles in all, there being nearly one mile of ditch-grade road to protect by a shovel-made trench along the west line of the fire. More than another mile of trenches have been made by shovels from the west ditch grade road to the Arneson farm and north around the buildings to the ditch grade a half mile north. Here the peat averages about two feet deep. Along the south fire front for a distance of more than 2-1/2 miles, the peat ranges from 3 to 7 feet deep. To the east of the fire, there is a ditch with water in it that has been dammed up, making a good fire break.
Credit for successfully stopping the fire and holding it belongs to the people from Roseau to Pinecreek who left their work and volunteered their services.
At Pinecreek Rev. Hofrenning has organized his people and they have come to the fire in squads and held it on the western front, protecting ditch grade and road.
There were thousands of tons of hay to the south endangered by the fire, but none was harmed. Blazes came within thirty feet of one stack but were beaten out with wet sacks. The only property burned was a few fence posts.
During the siege, the firefighters were fed at the Miovac home. At first, Mrs. Miovac and her daughters were alone with the work, but later Anna and Julia Listug and other ladies volunteered to help. The food was carried along the front by car at regular intervals both day and night.
Art Linder and Dick Willems were here Monday and asked that a volunteer patrol service be organized and ordered P. G. Pederson, fire warden of the unorganized territory of north Jadis to do so. On Tuesday such a force was organized with 70 signed up to work in shifts. These will be called by Mr. Pederson as needed. The patrol will be reduced as the peat fires burn themselves out along the trenches.
Thank you to (www.roseauonline.com) for letting us share our county’s history with your listeners by donating air time, studio time, and production staff every week.