Moose Lake Museum Prepares “Shack” for 1918 Fires Dedication

Northland Uncovered: 100 Years Since the Fires of 1918

MOOSE LAKE, Minn. – This year marks 100 years since the historic, tragic fire of 1918 that ravaged much of the Northland.

The blaze swept the region beginning on Saturday, October 12, 1918.

Now, the Moose Lake Depot and Fires of 1918 Museum is preparing to commemorate that anniversary.

“It remains the largest natural disaster in Minnesota 100 years later,” explained Natalie Frohrip, the Vice President of the Moose Lake Historical Society.

She tells us the fires whipped across the Northland at 70 miles-per-hour taking down entire towns that stood in its path, “almost cyclone winds, which fire creates its own wind, so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for people to get someplace safe.”

It’s estimated 250,000 acres of land burned in the blaze and it took six to seven hours to burn the town of Moose Lake.

This time frame didn’t give residents much of an opportunity to escape, “Many people made it into Moose Lake, the lake, and that’s how they survived,” said Frohrip.

In total, 453 died in the fire and a monument was erected in town to honor the victims.

They mayor at the time reached out to the governor seeking food, clothing and caskets.

The Red Cross stepped in and provided materials for families to build a shelter.

“They’re affectionately called the ‘Red Cross Shack’,” said Frohrip, “if you had a family of four you got a certain size if you had a bigger family you got more lumber.”

One of those homes is still in existence.

The historical society is currently in the process of restoring and furnishing it to ensure this story is never forgotten.

“I think it’s important to remember the victims, honor the survivors and really to give thanks for the people that stayed and rebuilt because we wouldn’t be here today if they hadn’t,” said Frohrip.

The dedication of the house will be on July 1.

That day, they’ll hold an old-fashioned picnic and are asking for descendants of fire survivors to attend.

The weekend of October 13-14 there will be two bus tours covering fire site areas throughout the Northland.

A ceremony to commemorate the fires will be held the afternoon of the 13.

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