Sometimes, it’s hard for history to remember disasters throughout time. Usually significant to a specific area, as time rolls on, the memory fades away. Today I ended up at a museum dedicated to one of these disasters, the Hinckley Minnesota fire.
It’s hard to imagine what Hinckley would have been like in 1894. As sparse as the community seems today, with acres of farmland as far as the eye can see, this small town was actually a hub for the local timber business. White pine was plentiful, and settlers came from hundreds of miles away to try to find the American dream.
Unfortunately, the process of cutting and cleaning the trees left the cleared areas ripe for danger. See, the limbs of the trees were useless to the foresters, so they would cut them off, and take just the trunk, leaving the bare limbs behind. For years, this hadn’t been an issue but this particular year (1894) there were several weeks of drought. The combination of these two factors left the timber dry and ready to spring to life as soon as a spark hit it. As the deforestation business led to many small camps popping up throughout the forest, this led to camp fires being commonplace and smoke in the air being the normal.
On September 1st, that smoke was not the result of campfires. It was a wildfire that had started to take hold and by the time anyone took notice, it was too late. When it was over the Firestorm had completely destroyed six towns, and over 400 square miles lay black and smoldering. The firestorm was so devastating that it lasted only four hours but destroyed everything in its path.
There is a little bit of icing on the cake though! Once the fire had died down, it had completely cleared the entire area and made it all prime real estate for farming. Business started to boom and the current economy that the area knows started to grow. I find it incredibly interesting that literally, through the flames came green life.
Closest Supercharger Hinckley MN
404 Fire Monument Rd, Hinckley, MN 55037
Hinckley Fire Museum
106 Old Hwy 61 S, Hinckley, MN 55037