Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ward County Fire


The harrowing experiences of a Ward County family were reported to the Fargo Forum on this day in 1907. An unexpected fire left the family without shelter or warm clothing in thirty-eight below weather for over twelve hours before the father was able to secure help. The rural family lived on their farm eight miles north of Minot, North Dakota.

That evening began just as any other in the Buntain household, as J. C. Buntain and his wife put their young toddler to bed and, after a time, themselves retired. Mr. Buntain reported that around 11 o’clock that night, he awoke to find his room filled with thick, black smoke. A quick glance around the room registered the fire quickly to Mr. Buntain, as the walls of the couple’s room, and even the end of their bed, were in fact on fire. The man quickly woke his wife and hurried to find his two-year old child. On the way out of the burning house, Mr. Buntain grabbed a blanket to wrap around the little one. Other than the blanket, the Buntains had no other covering besides their night clothes. After reaching the safety of the barn, Mr. Buntain attempted to return to the house in order to secure some warmer clothing for the family, but was unsuccessful. He burned himself badly in the process, losing all of his hair and blistering the skin of his face and hands. Despite the freezing weather, the family remained in the barn all that night, huddling for warmth and praying to be rescued. By 10 o’clock the following morning, the couple had given up hope of being found. Mrs. Buntain tied her husband to a horse, and wrapped his now-frozen feet and hands with part of the blanket covering the small child. She sent him off in the direction of her father-in-law’s farm, a mile distant.

On the way to the farm, Mr. Buntain met his father heading into town with a load of grain. The elder Buntain was shocked to find his son in such a pitiable condition, and rushed him to his own farmstead before returning to fetch the man’s wife and child from the frigid barn. Amazingly, both the woman and the young child suffered no ill effects from the episode, although Mr. Buntain suffered severe burns on his face and hands. Strangely enough, Mr. Buntain also suffered a case of frostbite from the fire.


The Ward County Independent. January 10, 1907: p. 1.

The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Evening ed.). January 11, 1907: p. 1.