October 12, 1918
“A forest fire on the railroad line between Duluth and Hibbing kills 435 people and burns 38 communities. The blaze destroys Cloquet, Carlton, Moose Lake, and several other towns before reaching the outskirts of Duluth three days later.” *
The ramifications from this tornado of fire were immense. About 250,000 acres were burned out or completely deforested. (391 sq. miles) The loss of property was valued at approx. $73 million in 1918 dollars, or about $1,160,000,000 in 2017 dollars. It was the worst natural disaster in Minnesota history in terms of damage done to life and property on a single day.***
“Even this tragic demonstration of the need for more funds for fire protection made little impression. However, one important law was passed, namely the burning permit law. Previous to its passage, anyone could start a fire wherever and whenever he felt so inclined.” (Forestry in Minnesota, St. Paul,MN. 1971)**
Lord, we mourn this loss of life today. We are saddened for the great diminution of public and private property. We are sorrowful for our contribution to the wasting of Your trees and wildlife! Have mercy!
Fire is one of Your greatest gifts to humanity, and to cold places like Minnesota. It’s truly one of our simplest joys whether sitting by a campfire or reading a great book next to fireplace on a winter night. We love fire at the proper distance, and within boundaries.
Disasters like this remind us of our limitations. We are self-determining humanists in theory, but live in a reality beyond our control. Have mercy on both our vanity and frailty when we are powerless!
Will You forgive the blame passed out in this event? The judgment of rail interests to the forest interests to the farmer to the State to the Federal Government to You? We offer You our pain and excuses from this event; will You take them up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ?
Will You give wisdom to burn with permission, and minimize foolish use of fire? Will You cause us to be a merciful people in times of natural disaster? Will You make a rescuing people to those trapped in the blaze? You are our help in times of trouble!
We hear Your words spoken through Isaiah today:
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” Isaiah 47:10-11 NIV