Wildfire news, June 12, 2009

Rumors about new undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources and environment

Following Homer Lee Wilkes’ withdrawal of his name from consideration for the position, there are rumors that the Obama administration is looking at Harris D. Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, to be nominated for the job formerly held by Mark Rey. But some environmental groups are concerned about Mr. Sherman’s stance on building roads for the oil, gas and mining industry in Colorado

Burn victim near Pendleton, OR identified

The burned body found in a truck that Wildfire Today told you about on June 6 has been identified as Edward Fergueson, 79, of Hermiston Oregon. An investigation revealed that Mr. Fergueson drove a half mile off the road in the Umatilla Indian Reservation where his truck became stuck on steep terrain. The exhaust ignited grass under the truck and started a small vegetation fire. The body was found inside the burned truck.



Bar Harbor fire in Maine, 1947

Willem Lang of Vermont Public Radio has an interesting account of the well-known fire that burned much of Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park in 1947, “the year Maine burned”. Since then, there have been no major wildfires in the park.

The summer of 1947 was one of the driest on record in Maine. The autumn rains failed, and by late fall the state was tinder-dry. On the afternoon of October 17 the Bar Harbor Fire Department, on Mount Desert Island, got a report of smoke rising from a cranberry bog.

1947 fire, Acadia
1947 fire, Acadia

It was a tough little fire, smoldering underground, but hardly out of control. But on the 21st the wind picked up to near-gale force, fanning the flames into the spruce forest downwind of the bog, and suddenly the island was faced with a wide, fast-moving fire headed straight for the town.

The town was a summer resort of the wealthy – think John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan – so the fire became international news. But the locals were faced with the loss of their homes, and were cut off, besides. All the roads between Bar Harbor and the mainland ran through the flames. Local fishermen came to the rescue, but many residents, looking at the smoke behind them and the gale on the sea ahead of them, opted to stay on the town pier. It turned out to be the better choice; bulldozers cleared a path on the highway, and a caravan of cars made it through.

Before the fire was extinguished in November, it had consumed over 17,000 acres, 170 homes, five grand hotels, and 67 summer estates. Acadia National Park, comprising most of the interior of the island, lost over 10,000 acres of forest.

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