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Lake Traverse Fire

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Sarah Quatier

on 25 March 2015

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Transcript of Lake Traverse Fire

Lake Traverse Fire of 1935
Saturday, October 19
The 1930's
Sarah Quatier
Sunday, October 20
Lake Traverse
Mud Lake
For More Information:
On the border between MN and SD (near ND) - Location of the fire of 1935
17 sq. miles (10,848 acres)
Maximum depth: 12 feet
Home to aquatic animals and plant life
Site of recreational activities and lake homes
Separated from Mud Lake by the White Rock Dam
3.8 sq. miles (2461.82 acres)
Maximum depth: 6.5 feet
Today, north of the White Rock dam
Creates border between Minnesota and South Dakota
Home to aquatic animals and plantlife
Financial Effects
Geographic Effects
Effects to Animal Populations
The 1930's had a devestating effect on the animals
Fish from the lake died when it dried up
Animals were struggling to find food
The fire killed off even more:
Birds and smal mammals living in the grass when the fire spread were burned
They flew or ran out of the flames on fire
Baseball players would hit the birds out of the air with sticks as they flew by to stop the fire from spreading.
Rosholt Review. Thursday, October 24, 1935.
Contact Sarah Quatier (squatier@cord.edu) for:
Transcripts of interviews with eyewitnesses
Additional information regarding the fire
Directions to other people or references
Contact the Rosholt Review 605-537-4276 for copies of the newspapers from the weeks following the fire
View the White Rock town history book for an article pertaining to the fire
Fire rejuvinated the dry, dead land
Farmers wouldn't have started a burn on their own with the dry conditions, but the fire cleaned the land for them
Farmers kept the fires from reaching any homes or farm buildings
The White Rock Dam was delayed by the fire
The dam would've helped with water retention, and the delay prolonged the dry conditions
The Rosholt Review, Thursday October 31, 1935
"Farmers were the backbone of the economy in small towns. If the cows didn't eat, we didn't eat." - Gladys Pearson
Approximately 2,000 tons of hay burned in the fire: a devestating financial loss to already-struggling farmers
Peat in the ground kindled the fire overnight and it started up again on Sunday morning
Firefighters from Rosholt, Wheaton, and Morris were called back to the lake bottom at 8:30am
Continued fighting the fire as it spread
The wind changed multiple times throughout the day making it difficult to get the fire under control
Flames finally subsided late Sunday evening
No people were killed as a result of the fire or smoke
Donny Simonson and Ray Petrick remember injured men -
Two men jumped on top of a hay bale and needed to be rescued before they were seriously burned
Two men had severe burns to their hands and arms from fighting the fire for too long and needed medical attention
One man inhaled too much smoke and passed out in a water tank. His daughter found and moved him before he drowned.
Fire broke out in the afternoon and continued well into the evening
Potential causes of the fire:
Pheasant hunters started a fire to scare up birds
Farmer hit a rock with a piece of machinery and caused a spark
Someone dropped a cigarette
It burned through 36 sq. miles of lake bottom
Some flames reached 30 to 40 feet tall
Rosholt, Wheaton, and Morris fire departments all responded. Farmers provided help as well.
From the Town of Rosholt:
People could see the smoke up to 15 miles away
With limited telephones, people started calling for help
All available farmers and men from town came to fight the fire
The manager of the general store rushed tubs of sandwiches to the farmers and firefighters working on controlling the flames
Lake Traverse. Photo credit: http://www.minnesotalakes.net/lake_traverse_minnesota_fishing.html
The White Rock Dam. Credit: http://www.mvp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/LakeTraverse.aspx
The cattle were in critical condition due to the depression and drought
Farmers were struggling financially and crops weren't coming in well
Resources were scarce, and families were poor
There was no water in the ground
Lake Traverse (and Mud Lake) had dried up completely
Farmers got together and filled the dried lake bottom with all of their hay for the cattle
The Rosholt Review, Thursday October 31, 1935
Lessons Learned
Another fire broke out the next year
Farmers and firefighters knew how to respond
The first fire provided the best type of training
Nobody was injured in the second fire either, it wasn't nearly as large, and it didn't last as long
Townspeople learned their role in responding to emergencies (bringing food, calling for help, responding to fight flames personally)
Eventually the dam was constructed, rain fell again, water came back into the lake, and the farmers had productive crop yields.
Rosholt bounced back and is still "proud and alive" today
Article run by the Rosholt Review.
October 24, 1935
The White Rock Dam. http://www.mvp.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/LakeTraverse.aspx
Rosholt, SD
The dam was completed years later and remains there as a divider between Traverse and Mud Lake still today
Browns Valley, MN
Full transcript