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Death in Blackwater Canyon

Author(s): Erle Kauffman
Year Published: 1937
Description:

On August 21, 1937, the tragic Blackwater Fire caused the death of 15 firefighters, burning approximately 1,700 acres of National Forest System lands on the Shoshone National Forest, 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 blow-up of the fire occurred at approximately 15:45 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.

Citation: Kauffman, Erle. 1937. Death in Blackwater Canyon. American Forests. November Issue: 534-559.
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Extreme Fire Behavior, Case Studies, Human Dimensions of Fire Management, Human Factors of Firefighter Safety
Ecosystem(s): Subalpine wet spruce-fir forest, Subalpine dry spruce-fir forest, Montane wet mixed-conifer forest, Montane dry mixed-conifer forest, Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 11494
FRAMES RCS number: 13555
Record updated: Jun 14, 2018