Hinckley, MN Area Fire, Sept 1894

Downtown Hinckley after the Fire, image from the Minnesota Historical Society, mnhs.org Hinckley Fire Memorial Hinckley Fire Memorial

The Great Hinckley Fire was a major conflagration that burned an area of 420 square miles or 200,000 acres. The fire killed many people, with the minimum number centering at 418. This is in dispute, however, as many scholars believe the number to be closer to 800. The fire occurred on September 1, 1894 and was centered at Hinckley, Minnesota. After a two-month drought, several fires started in the pine forests of Pine County, Minnesota. The main contributor to the fire was apparently the then-common method of lumber harvesting, which involved stripping trees of their branches, littering the ground with flammable debris. Another contributing factor was a temperature inversion that trapped the gases from the fires. The fires developed into a firestorm, with temperatures reaching 1000 degrees Fahrenheit (500 °C). Some people were able to escape by climbing into wells, or by reaching a nearby pond or the Grindstone River. Others escaped by jumping onto two crowded trains that were able to get out of town. James Root, an engineer on a train heading south from Duluth, was able to rescue nearly 300 people by backing a train up nearly five miles to Skunk Lake, where people could escape the fire....

The towns of Mission Creek, Brook Park and Hinckley were completely destroyed. Sandstone was also burned. Boston Corbett, the Union soldier who killed John Wilkes Booth, is generally considered to have died in the fire, because his last known whereabouts were in the vicinity, and a "Thomas Corbett" is listed as one of the victims. It appears that this was the second-deadliest fire in the history of Minnesota, surpassed only by the 1918 Cloquet Fire.

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