Sep 1, 1894
Extremely dry conditions, high winds, and acres of tender-dry “slash” left over from timber cutting, combine to create a horrific fire with walls of flame 200 feet high reaching temperatures of 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Four hundred thirty six persons were known to have died and both towns were completely destroyed. Only the heroic actions of a number of railway employees, who evacuated several hundred residents, kept the death toll from being much higher. This was among the worst disasters in Minnesota history.*
Why is it that You allow adversity, tragedy, and disasters such as this fire, Lord? If this people were dependent on logging and wood products for their livelihood, why would You let it be taken away? Why would You allow this inferno to compound their grief by such a dramatic loss of life?
We often respond to catastrophe with a short-term perspective. Our senses are overloaded, and it is all we can do is observe the wreckage. It is not natural to stop and think, “What good can possibly come from this horror?”
Another typical response is to a painful event of this magnitude is to dissociate ourselves from it. We seek relief usually by one of two routes: responsibility or blame. The first is to rationalize what happened, and escape emotionally by seeking causes and responsibility, all the while remaining a ‘brave’ composure. The second response is to attach to our hearts, but close our minds by assessing ‘guilty’ parties of the blame due them.
I don’t know the hearts of my fellow Minnesotans this day, nor will I attempt to be their psychologist gazing back in judgment from the future. I do trust in Your omnipresent nature, and that this fire, the loss of these lands, people, and property 100-odd years ago remains in Your eternal ‘now’. Will You guide me to intercede Jesus?
Will You forgive those of us who offended You by choosing the pathway of blame? Will you forgive those of us who kept cool heads, were responsible, but never allowed the grief of this day to exit our hearts and consciousness? Will You break the pain that was passed forward into future generations by our lack of forgiveness and resolution?
Will You help us release the idol of control? We often hate what we cannot control. We cannot accept that we cannot control or manipulate our environment to our liking or desired outcome.
According to the Hinckley Fire Museum:
“Because of the dryness of the summer, fires were common in the woods, along railroad tracks and in logging camps where loggers would set fire to their slash to clean up the area before moving on. Some loggers, of course left their debris behind, giving any fire more fuel on which to grow. Saturday, September 1st, 1894 began as another oppressively hot day with fires surrounding the towns and two major fires that were burning about five miles (8 km) to the south. To add to the problem, the temperature inversion that day added to the heat, smoke and gases being held down by the huge layer of cool air above. The two fires managed to join together to make one large fire with flames that licked through the inversion finding the cool air above. That air came rushing down into the fires to create a vortex or tornado of flames which then began to move quickly and grew larger and larger turning into a fierce firestorm. The fire first destroyed the towns of Mission Creek and Brook Park before coming into the town of Hinckley. When it was over the Firestorm had completely destroyed six towns, and over 400 square miles (1,000 km2) lay black and smoldering. The firestorm was so devastating that it lasted only four hours but destroyed everything in its path.”
Will You forgive us as Minnesotans’ for vainly attempting to control our forests? Will You turn this tragic day into a blessing for present and future generations? Will you show us the good fruits of September 1, 1894? Will You kindly help us to manage our inner environments as we manage our external ones?
PS Lord, Will You honor the everyday heroes like Tommy Dunn?
“One of the many heros of this tragedy was the telegrapher stationed at the St. Paul and Duluth Depot in Hinckley. Tommy Dunn remained loyal to his post and waited for orders. Eventually the very tracks the trains traveled on burned and no orders came. The young telegrapher perished in the fire. He had been determined to save the people of this area. His last know message that he tapped out on his key to the agent in Barnum was “I think I’ve stayed too long” Tommy Dunn had waited until it was too later for his own escape.”
*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!