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In One Ear: ‘Too terrible to describe’

Eye-witness describes 1922 Astoria fire
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on December 8, 2017 12:01AM

There’s nothing like an eye-witness description of the 1922 Astoria fire, and Mrs. C. A. Lundberg, provided one to The Sunday Oregonian on Dec. 10, 1922:

“I saw that red blaze when it started and it frightened me. … And then I saw it spring up in several places. They tell me that the honeycomb foundations of the streets were the cause of that.

“Alone in the house, I sat there with my eyes glued to the window. I saw the fire run in four directions — blazes here, a great blackness there, and then a blaze in another place. It was not long until I knew that it was out of control. I could see crowds of men running about in the streets, and when I opened the window once, I had to close it right away because of the rain. I could hear shoutings about the roar of the fire.

“If you have read Dante’s ‘Inferno’ you will have some conception of what that awful red thing seemed to me. It was too terrible to describe. At times I think the flames went 200 feet in the air. The Columbia almost to the other shore shone red. Why, I could even see the waves, it was so light. But oh, it was weird! I never want to see anything like it again.

“… Suddenly I knew it was day, and was glad. But it was a dirty gray, that dawn, a dirty gray all shot with crimson. … Those next hours were dreadful, dreadful, I tell you, and then somehow it got around that it was all under control. It made me sick to walk down and see all that ruin as I did yesterday afternoon.” A section of a Frank Woodfield photo of the fire wreckage is shown.

“Just think, all those fine things all gone in smoke,” she concluded. “And Astoria, do you think it will ever be a town again? … It will be a terrible task. One would almost pray at a time like this.”


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