On October 12, 1918, a massive forest fire raced through northeastern Minnesota from Sturgeon Lake to the shores of Lake Superior north of Duluth. When it was over, this region had suffered through one of Minnesota's worst disasters.
Weather conditions on October l2, 1918, were right for the tragedy which ensued. Hot, dry weather had prevailed for several months. Railroads were determined to have started the fires as sparks from the engines ignited dry brush along the tracks. On this day, extremely high winds fanned the flames and sent them roaring through the forests and lumber mills of the region.
The 1918 Cloquet - Moose Lake Fire destroyed 38 communities in northeastern Minnesota. At feast 450 people were killed in the blaze, and over 52,000 people were either injured or displaced by the fire. Property damage was valued at over $73 million.
There was great loss in all areas ravaged by the flames. However, no area suffered more than the Moose Lake - Kettle River area. Of the 453 persons killed, over one-half perished within ten miles of Kettle River.
One site more than any other represents the tragedy of the 1918 fire. Several vehicles attempting to flee the flames were unable to navigate a sharp turn on a stretch of present day Minnesota Highway 73 just south of Kettle River, now known as Dead Man's Curve. At first 15 cars went off the road, causing a series of crashes that resulted in nearly 25 people perishing in the smoke and flames.