By mid-August, there were 1,000 to 3,000 fires burning in Idaho, Montana, and Washington. August 20, 1910 brought hurricane-force winds to the interior northwest, whipping the hundreds of small fires into one or two much larger blazing infernos. Such a conflagration was impossible to fight; there were too few men and supplies. The National Forest Service was only five years old at the time and unprepared for the possibilities of the dry summer or a fire of this magnitude, though all summer it had been urgently recruiting as many men as possible to fight the hundreds of fires already burning, many with little forestry or firefighting experience.
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