The Great Maine Fire that Claimed Over 800 Homes, 200,000+ Acres
Wildfires are always a problem in Maine, but in 1947 an out-of-control wildfire devastated the coastal region.
How the Fire Started on Mount Desert Island
It was a weird weather year in Maine, with a rainy spring followed by a sunny and hot summer. By autumn, the state had only received about 50% of its usual rainfall. A stretch of warm weather in the fall helped contribute to dangerous conditions and fire officials went on alert.
According to the National Park Service, a woman named Mrs. Gilbert called authorities on October 17 to report smoke rising up from a cranberry bog located between her place on Crooked Road near Hulls Cove and Dolliver's Dump. It was never determined what started the fire, or whether it actually started in the bog or in the dump, but the flames spread very quickly and resulted in a fire that took out a large portion of Mount Desert Island.
Over three days, the fire burned less than 200 acres, but then the winds picked up
When it reached 2,000 acres, the military got involved, as well as National Park Service personnel, and others. When the winds shifted, the fire started bearing down on Bar Harbor, taking out 67 mansion-sized seasonal cottages, located along a sweep of properties known as the Millionaires' Row. Many of those homes were never replaced. Luckily, the fire didn't affect the business district but did take out 170 permanent homes and five historic hotels. People were evacuating any way they could, including many who were taken out by boats.
It took nearly a month to finally extinguish the blaze
By the time it was done, 17,188 acres had burned, including 10,000 acres in Acadia National Park. 5 people died in the fires, including an already-ill elderly couple who died of heart attacks, a man and a teenage girl who died in a car crash, and an elderly man who returned to save his cat.
MDI was only one region affected by a fire that year
This was only one of several fires that claimed over 200,000 acres in Maine in 1947, prompting the slogan that it was 'The Year Maine Burned.'