Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Smoke obliterates Lewiston Hill from view
[Over the past week, devastating wildfires have been fought in our region. Distant friends and family have sent inquiries as to the state of things here. Well, the Lewis-Clark Valley is not in the midst of fire but of smoke. The smoke is a constant reminder that citizens of neighboring communities are suffering this devastation. Up-to-date information can be sketchy; misinformation abounds. Local retailers, the Salvation Army, and others are assisting in efforts to gather emergency supplies for those without homes as well as firefighters.

Mike and I made a trip to the farm yesterday (Tuesday, August 18), traveling Hwy 12, Hwy 7 (Gilbert Grade to Nezperce), and Hwy 95. The fire is back and away from this route, but we saw plenty of smoke. They say this is the worst wildfire season in Idaho since 1926.

I’m reposting here Grandma Ina’s review of the Little Canyon Fire of 1934. In those days wildfires were fought by any able-bodied male, not trained firefighters. The new pictures were taken yesterday.]

The Dieterle place in Little Canyon
 The fire was pretty bad. The men fought it over two weeks, day and night, up and down the canyon. It destroyed a lot of pasture for the Dieterle boys and got Aunt Maud’s timber. It got the house, barn, 15 tons of hay, a lot of harness and farm machinery on the old John Shod farm about west across the canyon from us.

The fire spotted across the canyon onto the side of the bench on which stands “the old crag,” and was into our hay before we knew it. Shirley rushed out to get a view of it. I went to the telephone so as to send word to a threshing crew at the old Trutton farm. I tried to call Planks between times, but couldn’t raise them, so when Shirley came back I sent her over there for I was sure they were home, and sure enough they were and putting in hay. They just left the team standing and ran over. Well, in a very short time cars were arriving and men spilling out with sacks, buckets, shovels, etc. At least a dozen cars came and they fought it out of the gulch leading up behind June’s hen house and from Shockley’s and John Boehm’s. It might have got June’s buildings had it come up that gulch. 

They were on that job all Sunday night, Monday, and Monday night. I called for Earl at Dryden’s as soon as I could, and he made the grade in 15 minutes and drove right through to the syphon and went right on down to where the fire had started and fought it alone there for about an hour, then Jay Cordell and a few others thought they’d better go back down there instead of following the fire head, and he was mighty glad of help. 

Later that evening Henry Shockley came down, and he and Irl stayed down there all Sunday night. Earl came up and did chores Monday a.m. and took breakfast back to Henry. They dug a trench down the canyon side to the old road that day and back fired along it for there was danger of the fire crossing the canyon and coming down on our side and it would have just swept us clean if it had. 

Orofino barely visible from Gilbert Grade
You see, the grass is awful thick over west and this old fence row running through to the west from the “green grove” is a rod wide at least and a regular fire trap, so with a west wind I don’t think we could have saved the house after this grove got afire. 

The Saturday night before [this fire started] about 40 men went into the canyon and using Aunt Maud’s old road up the canyon as a break, they back fired to the creek to keep it from burning us out on this side, and then it spotted across and came up here after all. Henry and Earl stayed on the fire all day Monday. Shirley and Dad carried hot food and coffee to them as far as they could without going down the steepest part, over the bench. That night Earl came out again to milk and get more food while Henry pulled Mormon oats and made a bed for them, and they slept on the fire Monday night and put in most of Tuesday down there watching the back fire principally. Everything was so awful dry. 

. . . . It was surely an awful time, and the danger great. It went on way up the canyon and they had a terrible time with it up there and finally Lewis County sent a deputy sheriff with an experienced fire fighter to direct matters, and men rallied enough to put it out. The canyon doesn’t look so bad as you’d think for it burned in patches sort of.  . . . .  

We had a nice rain last Saturday night and it has cleared the atmosphere so that it is very beautiful now. Grain threshing is done long ago and bean threshing all done except a job or so.
Ina Dobson to her son Vance, 1934

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