The rededication ceremony will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 20, 2015, at the intersection of Forest Service Road 429 (High Park Road) and Forest Service Road 433, about 0.5 mile south of U.S. Highway 16.
The public is welcome to attend the ceremony.
Saban was born in 1901 in Shell, Wyoming. He attended the Polytechnic Institute in Billings, Montana, and subsequently completed a course at the School of Forestry at the University of Montana. He began his Forest Service career in 1922 in the Bighorn National Forest. He passed the Forest Ranger examination in 1923 and went on to work in eight national forests throughout the Rocky Mountains. At the time of his death, Mr. Saban was a foreman with the Civilian Conservation Corps. In August 1937, he was assigned to Ten Sleep Camp F-35 and had been on duty only three weeks when he met his death while fighting the Blackwater Fire.
The Blackwater Fire started on August 18, 1937, about 35 miles west of Cody in the Shoshone National Forest. Three days later, an approaching cold front brought erratic, gusty winds. Forty men, under the leadership of Ranger Urban Post, were told to drop their heavy tools and run. They took refuge on a rocky outcrop, where Post told them to get down on the ground. Some refused. Of the 40 or so trapped there, seven died. Ranger Alfred Clayton and seven others, including James Saban, were trapped and fatally injured in a draw a couple miles away. At the end of the day, 15 firefighters had perished and 38 were badly injured.
Mr. Saban left behind his former wife, Alberta, and two young children, Jean age 5 and Jack age 7. Jean and Jack were adopted by Lloyd Seaman after he and Alberta married. Jean Seaman Groshart passed away in 2013. Jack Seaman continues to be an active member of the Worland, Wyoming, community.
In 1938 and 1939, Blackwater Fire victims were memorialized when geographic features and Forest Service sites were renamed in their honor. Tyrrell Ranger Station in the Bighorn National Forest is named for Paul Tyrrell, who was credited with saving the lives of panicked young men at Post Point. Mr. Tyrrell succumbed to his injuries five days after the fire.
Mr. Saban’s sacrifice was not overlooked in the years after the fire. His memory was honored when the Forest Service designated the ranger station in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, as the Saban Ranger Station. However, in 1972, the ranger station became private property when the Forest Service completed a land exchange.
Private citizens and current and former Forest Service employees took up the cause to keep Mr. Saban’s memory instilled in the Bighorn’s cultural history. In April 2015, the Chief of the Forest Service, who has the authority to rename administrative sites after former Forest Service employees, approved the renaming of the High Park Lookout to the James T. Saban Lookout.
The High Park Lookout, located just south of U.S. Highway 16 about 15 miles east of Ten Sleep, was built in the 1940s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was used until the 1970s, when the Forest Service replaced manned lookouts with aircraft to spot forest fires.
“Renaming the High Park Lookout to the James T. Saban Lookout is a fitting tribute to honor Mr. Saban and his family,” said district ranger Mark Booth. “What better place to name in his memory than a lookout tower high in the Bighorns overlooking the mountains Mr. Saban loved so well.”
For more information about the ceremony or the Blackwater Fire, contact Susie Douglas at 307.674.2658 or the Powder River Ranger District office in Buffalo at 307.684.7806.