And In The News, September 4

Bayfield County Press, September 4, 1908

City of Washburn narrowly escaped destruction on Thursday morning

Six houses totally destroyed

Fire started in “Slabtown” in east end — The Ashland Fire Department lent aid

A fire, which for a time threatened the entire city of Washburn, started in the city yesterday morning at about 10 o’clock. Washburn has a volunteer fire department and had it not been for the efficient work done by it the fire might easily have resulted in the city’s destruction.

The fire was first discovered in that portion of the city known as “Slab Town,” which is situated in the extreme western portion of the city, near Bigelow Street. Nothing definite is known as to the exact origin of the fire but it is supposed to have started from sparks coming from the chimney of one Matt Sharron’s house, which house was completely destroyed in the conflagration.

“Slabtown” was the nickname given to the area surrounding the lumber mills near the present West End Park. Many residents were French-Canadian mill workers and their families.

The fire spread rapidly and by the time the fire department arrived on the scene had gained much headway and was practically beyond control. A strong southwesterly wind was blowing and the flames took a leap into the next block and set fire to dwellings there.

The firemen finally realized that unless they could secure additional aid that the fire would soon be in the business portion of the city, and a hurried call for assistance was sent to Ashland and a company from that city went over on a special train, bringing with them 1400 feet of hose. With this additional help fire was gotten under control but not until six dwellings had been practically burned to the ground with all their content.

The company of firemen from Ashland who assisted the Washburn department are credited with having made the fastest time between Ashland and Washburn that has yet been made on the railroad, the trip being made in about 16 minutes.

But that’s not all:

Another large fire raged the greater part of yesterday and last night just north of the city of Washburn, near Houghton. This fire was in the nature of a forest fire and two farms suffered considerable loss as a result of it. The heavy rainstorm which came last night, however, was of great material aid in saving a great deal of property. This fire was thought by Bayfield residents to be the fire in the city of Washburn and telephone centrals were kept busy answering inquiries concerning it.

1908 was a bad year for fires. Throughout the summer, wildfires plagued farmers and lumbermen along the Sand River, in the Town of Russell, and elsewhere in the Chequamegon region. The climax came in mid-September when a devastating blaze destroyed the Wachsmuth Lumber Company mill in Bayfield, along with much of the surrounding area: docks, boats, icehouses, and huge stockpiles of timber. On that occasion, firefighters from Washburn provided aid to the neighbor city, just as they had received help from Ashland when their own town was threatened, “arriving on the 4:50 train” with manpower and extra hose.

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