4th August 2017

On a hot, dry day in August of 1967, the forces of nature combined to create a series of events that would be forever in the minds of many Boundary and Bonner County residents.

Lightning strikes in the northwest corner of Boundary County raged out of control for 31 days, consuming 16,000 acres.

This fire, known as the Trapper Peak Fire, had a firefighting army of 2,200, with 100 bulldozers raging through the rampaging flames, along with planes and helicopters, ambulances, water trailers and fire trucks making courageous attempts to contain the spread.

The very same month, lightning unleashed its fury on Sundance Mountain in Bonner County, which engulfed more than 56,000 acres, and in a period of only nine hours traveled 16 miles. The Sundance became a spectacular and horrific blaze with a record setting rate of consumption, racing over the Selkirk Crest toward Boundary County.

This was one of the hottest, fastest, and most destructive in US firefighting history.

Commemorative events are being scheduled to observe the 50th year of these two unforgettable fires in northern Idaho with the efforts of numerous agencies and organizations. Priest Lake Museum will hold a program of commemoration on Wednesday, August 23, at 7 p.m. at the Priest Lake Elementary School. Boundary County Museum will hold its program on Saturday, August 26, beginning at 2 p.m. in the Museum’s Portrait Hall.

On September 2, a dedication of a new trail head interpretive sign and a memorial plaque honoring the two firefighters who lost their lives in the Sundance Fire will be held, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Upper Pack River Bridge (west of Highway 95 and the Samuels Store, on Upper Pack River Road, approximately 4.5 miles).

T-shirts are on sale at the Museum and Idaho Department of Lands office in Bonners Ferry, and a GoFundMe campaign has been established to raise funds to cover the costs of the Memorial Plaque and Trail Head Sign, as well as to fund travel for the families of the fallen to meet for the very first time and attend the dedication.

If you would like to donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/sundance-fire-50th-commemoration.

More information will be coming in the next weeks.



Forest Fires of 1967

3 thoughts on “Forest Fires of 1967

  • September 3, 2022 at 11:20 am

    Hi, my name is Geoff Griffith. I was on the Priest Lake Hotshot crew that was involved fighting the Trapper Creek/Sundance Mountain Fire in 1967. Our crew was a 25-man crew of mostly young men between the ages of 19 and 26. Our crew boss was a guy named Tom Bloxom. Bob Pearsall was our crew chief from the Priest Lake Ranger Station. It was one of the hottest and most dangerous things I had ever participated in. We got paid $2.80 cents an hour when the fire was called, “Out of Control”. Later, if the area we were in was considered under control or in a “mopping up” status, we got $2.50 per hour. Of course, we got free room and board, ha-ha!

    We received a call from our base at the Priest Lake Ranger Station late in the day. We quickly packed-up, and got in the back of our truck called, “The Gypsy Wagon”, and sped down the road towards the fire. It was like going off to war.

    We joined the massive team of firefighters, were assigned our area of responsibility, and began digging fire line. We dug the forest floor, as they called it, “one foot in the fire.” We had been trained for two weeks at the Priest Lake Ranger Station that there were basically three ways to stop the fire: remove the oxygen by smothering the pathway with dirt, remove the fuel by cutting/digging a 12–18-inch pathway between the burning forest trees/shrubs, or remove the heat with either dirt or water if we were so lucky to have it.

    I was a student at Eastern Washing State College (EWSC), now Eastern Washington University. I made enough money to pay for a full year of my education by serving as a Hotshot that summer. I also put my faith in Jesus Christ because I realized how easy it would have been to “get dead” fighting the fire! If it wasn’t from the actual fire, it was from the falling debris, exploding and falling boulders, smoke inhalation, and sheer exhaustion.

    Our crew started out with 25 men. By the time we were allowed to leave the fire there were only seven of us left of the original crew. It is against the law to leave or quit when on a Federal Firefighting crew when engaged in an “Active Out-of-Control-Fire!” However, if you were injured while fighting or got foot-rot, or something that severely hindered your work, you could quit, and the Forest Service would get you back to your point of departure to the fire. Some of our guys actually cut themselves with their knives and pretended it was from a fall on their pulaski. Others got foot-rot, and other faked some type of sickness to get off the fire. It was a tremendous education and a difficult but wonderful accomplishment. I have continued to follow Christ for the 55 years following my experience fighting the “Sundance Mountain/Trapper Creek Fire.”

    • August 21, 2023 at 11:58 pm

      John Graham Here, I was on the Kaniksu Hotshot crew that year and Sundance broke out when we were on a fire just above Dry creek near Hope, I know we were mopping up the Sundance fire after the fact, but initial attack was not what I remember, but the Kaniksu mountain fire and trapper peak sure got our attention that year as well the Cabinet wilderness area….it was indeed a hot year with martial Law coming to Bonner and Boundry county

  • September 7, 2022 at 7:33 am

    That is quite the story, surely some intense memories, and such a different testimony too, He certainly works in His own ways!

    In 2017, the Museum gathered a lot of information on the fires for the Commemorative events including video interviews of others like you that experienced them. I will definitely print your story to add to the collection.


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