Fort Frances Times and Rainy Lake Herald
1938

THANKSGIVING DAY FIRES SWEPT 17 TO DEATH

Twelve Members of LaBelle Family and Four Of Fyle and Ben Fults Met Fiery Death

On the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day, havoc, horror and desolation literally square miles of death swept down upon this peaceful district.
The fire demon, breaking homes and hearts, snatched in its wake the lives of 12 from one family of three brothers; 4 from another; completely annihilated a third family; and claimed a victim from still another, bringing the dreadful, shocking toll of the otherwise beautiful and peaceful day, to 17 dead. All were laid to rest yesterday and today in graves in Emo, Fort Frances and Burriss.
In the McKenzie Hospital are 9 other victims of Monday afternoon's awful blazing inferno that practically anhiliated Dance Township, about 20 miles from here. Some without sight, all of them wracked with pain from terrible burns to their bodies and with hearts broken by that tragic nightmare, which in one swoop took from them nearly all their loved ones.
Added to this terrible toll of 17 deaths are three others at or near International Falls. The dead are:
Dance area: Benny Fults, 25; Mrs. Violetta LaBelle, 33, wife of William LaBelle; Abigail LaBelle, 2; Robert LaBelle, 4; Arthur LaBelle, 6; Violetta LaBelle, 8; Margaret LaBelle, 11; Mrs. Sadie LaBelle, 27, wife of Noah LaBelle; Florence LaBelle, 2 months; Calvin LaBelle, 3; Walter LaBelle, 5; Charles LaBelle, 6; Maxine LaBelle, 11, daughter of Frank LaBelle; Sam Fyle, 21; Mrs. Sam Fyle, 19; Donald Fyle, 18 months; Mabel Larson, 12.
Minnesota area: Orville F. Williams, 18, C.C.C. worker, Little Falls; Joseph Dardis, 67, International Falls; Fred Seris, Dunseith, N.D.
Victims today who are "progressing favourably" in the McKenzie Hospital are; Noah LaBelle, Mrs. Frank LaBelle and sons, Douglas and Dearl, ages 7 and 6 respectively; Nap LeBrun and Robert Featherstone, pulpwood cutters. Frank LaBelle and Noah's little son, Teddy, tonight have developed pneumonia.
Little Berdina, 8, daughter of Noah LaBelle is in a critical condition although her condition at the time of going to press was "slightly improved".
The raging inferno of the forest in its savage, mad gesture to wipe out the entire family of three brothers all but succeeded. From the Noah LaBelle family it claimed five of the eight lives, a mother and baby and three other children; from the Wm. LaBelle's a mother and a baby and three other children; the only survivors being Bill and the two eldest girls who were in town with a load of pulpwood. From Frank LaBelle's family of four, it took little Maxine, the only daughter. Of the Benny Fults family a 17-year-old wife and a few weeks' old baby were spared, to carry on without a husband and father.
It was constable Hamilton, who found the remains of the LaBelle mothers and children on the road near the homes. Maxine, rescued by N.L. Croome, succumbed from injures in McKenzie's hospital here.
"When we arrived at the scene, we found the 11 bodies scattered over the road," stated Constable Hamilton in an interview with the Times. "The two mothers had tried to protect their babies by covering them with their bodies. It was a terrible sight Every few feet or so, we would find a body twisted or burned, either in the ditch or on the road. It was a burnt road of death."
In the tragedy which overtook the Fyle family, the story of the brave young wife's fight to aid her husband was told yesterday by her mother, Mrs. Ole Larson, who with her family was moved here from the striken Dance area late Monday night. Mrs. Fyle (an expectant mother) had only arrived at the Larson home on Sunday. Monday fore-noon when the brush fires threatened her parents' home, she felt she must rush to her husband's aid a mile-and-a-half distance, where he was cutting pulpwood, to warn him of the impending danger.
Taking her infant son with her and her sister, Mabel, Mrs. Fyle set out on the bush trail.
She was successful in reaching her husband on her heroic mission as the position of the bodies foretold.
Searchers found the four bodies strewn for some four hundred yards in the cleared out area where Fyle was working for Henry Fults (brother of the deceased, Ben), They had apparently become trapped as fires swept around them. The charred remains of little Donald were found in the doorway of the smoldering Fults farm home. It is believed he became frightened and either fell from his mother's arms or crawled away from her. Some one hundred feet in front of the house lay the body of Sam Fyle, face down as if trying to escape. Further on the bush trail lay Mrs. Fyle and still further away, twelve-year-old Mabel/ "It was a ghastly sight," exclaimed Provincial Police Constable Martin Ericksen who was conducting a search of the district.
Benny Fults charred body was found in the fire-scarred area near the homestead of his brother, Henry. His wife and young baby were safe with relatives.

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