Ranger Pulaski and the 1910 Tale of Survival

Though not the only heroic ranger to lead their crews through imminent danger, perhaps no other story captures the bravery of the 1910 firefighters than that of forty year old Ranger Edward C. Pulaski and his crew of approximately forty men.

While fighting a fire at Placer Creek, about ten miles southwest of Wallace, Idaho, Ranger Pulaski and his men were quickly surrounded by flames from all directions. Without hesitation, Pulaski ordered his crew to take cover in an abandoned mine shaft. Barely outrunning the inferno, flames licked at the feet of the last men entering the mine. Having his men lay face first on the muddy tunnel floor, he draped blankets over the entrance, threatening to shoot any man who tried to flee back into the flames: "The first man who tries to leave this tunnel, I will shoot."

All the men passed out from smoke inhalation, and as Pulaski continually threw water onto the blankets, he himself succumbed to asphyxiation. The flames passed the tunnel and as the first men began to wake, one quickly noticed their fearless leader's lifeless body outside the tunnel entrance. He shouted back into the tunnel, "Come outside boys, the boss is dead." Without a second's delay, Pulaski muttered back, "Like hell he is." Five men died in the tunnel that day from suffocation due to the thick smoke, or drowning in the mud. Pulaski was temporarily blinded, his hands scorched, and had lungs damaged from breathing the smoke. The men's boots were burnt off their feet and the clothes that remained on their bodies were parched and tattered.

Covered with ash and mud, the men worked their way down the mountain side through Placer Creek. Though offered hot coffee and whiskey from a women's volunteer aid team, the men were, understandably, only interested in cold water.


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