Relief from Superior During Fire of 1918

City Across the Bridge Took in Refugees

DULUTH, Minn.- The Fire of 1918 sent up a bellowing smoke cloud of history, that is still being explored today. And that smoke cloud encompassed Superior as well.

As the Douglas County Historical Society found out, for those caught in the flames on that fateful day, Superior ended up being a safe haven.

“Over 5,000 people came on 98 train cars that came from the west, from Minnesota, seeking refuge,” said Historical Society Executive Director, Tony Tracy.

And Superior sure delivered, with the utmost hospitality.

“By 8 that next morning, that Sunday morning the 13th, all those 5,000 people had been fed, clothed, and housed.”

Tracy also says that, by that night, all 5,000 had beds as well, donated by kind Superiorites.

Though, in that same year, the fire wasn’t the only disaster.

There was a tragedy that hit close to home for Tracy’s family.

“My grandfather, Walter, and his brother, Matt stayed in Moose Lake and helped offload caskets,” he said.

“One of the caskets they offloaded had their father’s name on it. And they had no idea that he had passed, he was coming back from Texas, going into Minneapolis, and he got the Spanish Flu and died.”

The Spanish Flu, claiming over 7,000 Minnesotans, and the fires, claiming 450 Duluthians, mark 1918 as a horrific year for the state.

Tracy also said that the winds that October were historically low, until the 12th. Winds grew from 30 miles per hour in the morning, to 75 miles per hour later on, spreading that fire across 1500 square miles in less than 15 hours.

The Fire cost a total of $73 million in damages, which today would equal $1.2 billion. It ranks among the Top 5 Largest Forest Fires in the country.

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