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Gold Dredges in the North

These 2 articles were published in The Klondike Sun on Friday, September 3, 1999, but are no longer online.

A Piece of History... Gone

by Ron Ryant

Dredge No. 11, Klondike Gold Fields     Saturday evening, August 21st at approximately 9:40 p.m. the Klondike Valley Fire Department was alerted by a passing motorist to a fire engulfing Dredge Number 11, which is located about 8 Km. up the Hunker Creek Road.

    Upon arrival at the scene, fire was noted on all three decks with a surprisingly low level of smoke, an indication of the excellent burning characteristics of the involved fuels. A continuous water supply was, fortunately available, and immediately established. We requested assistance from forestry in the form of a bucket drop by helicopter. We were informed that the fading light condition made it impossible to comply with that request, however they offered the assistance of a couple of their fire fighters with a pump and some hose which was gratefully accepted.

    At that point it looked like it would be impossible to save anything except possibly the buckets and other assorted steel parts.

    We began with an exterior attack on the upper deck and on the support structures for the bucket line and the tailings stacker, which were fully involved. After we got that cooled down we positioned attack teams at both ends of the dredge and began systematically attacking the fire, first extinguishing lower level fires so that we could safely move to the upper levels without the risk of falling through flooring burned out from below.

    Forestry fire fighters went to work on the exterior of the structure putting out the fire which, if allowed to burn, would have caused the sheet metal coverings on the inside of the exterior walls to come down on fire fighters now working inside the dredge.

    With careful coordination, determined fire fighters working from both ends systematically fought their way inwards and upwards and finally, after about five and a half hours of arduous labour, managed to tame the beast.

    Due to poor light conditions it was impossible to determine that all smoldering fires were completely out but everything was well soaked, and exhausted but satisfied fire fighters returned to the hall and cleaned up equipment and were back in service by about 4:30 a.m.

    The next morning, with good light, it was determined that there were still several small smoldering hot spots and fire fighters spent several more hours ripping down sheet metal and opening up walls to expose hot spots for extinguishment.

    The cause of the fire, at the time of writing, is unknown, and is under investigation.

    Hats off to all the involved fire fighters. Good job. A big thank you to forestry for your assistance on this fire. Fortunately there were no injuries and a satisfactory conclusion was reached.

    Please note that the structural integrity of this dredge (which was not good to begin with) was extremely compromised by this fire and it would be very dangerous to enter the structure now.

    The accompanying photo is compliments of Peter Gould (Hunker Creek Pete) and was taken during very poor light conditions.

    Submitted by (slightly biased) Ronald Ryant Deputy Chief Klondike Valley Fire Department.

A Short History of Dredge Number 11

Contributed by Ron Ryant and Michael Gates

    Dredge number 11 has an interesting history. Although technically built in 1939 on Hunker Creek, parts of it were built in 1905. Many of the parts used for Dredge Number 11 were originally from a dredge built in 1905 by the Marion Steam Shovel Company of Marion Ohio for the Canadian Klondike Mining Company Limited. It was built near the mouth of Bear Creek and designated, Canadian Number 1. It had seven cubic foot buckets.

    In 1913 it moved to 21 Below on Hunker Creek. In 1920 it moved to 17 Below Lower Discovery on Dominion Creek. During 1920 it was rebuilt and renamed North West Number 1. It was also known briefly as New North West Number 1. In 1935 it became Y.C.G.C. Number 1 and it continued to operate on Dominion Creek until it was abandoned in 1938.

    In 1939 Y.C.G.C. Number 11 was built by Yuba Manufacturing Company at 59 Below on Hunker Creek. Some of the machinery built into Dredge Number 11 came from Y.C.G.C. Number 1 ( formerly Canadian #1, then N.W. # 1 and then New N.W. # 1 ) It dredged 21,921,063 cubic yards of ground which yielded $9,598,769.00.

    On Saturday August 21st 1999 it was ravaged by fire.

    The above information was taken from The Gold Hustlers by Lewis Green. This book covers much of the corporate mining era in the Klondike and is available at Maximilian's.